"The Health Care Bill Is In Trouble If They Keep The Excise Tax In It" Congressman Kucinich
January 13, 2010 MSNBC The ED Show
SCHULTZ: And welcome back to THE ED SHOW.
There was other news tonight. It‘s about health care.
The negotiations are in trouble. It‘s not good.
Today, the president took the lead. He‘s finally showing his cards. He spent four hours in negotiations with Democratic leaders, from both sides of the Congress as well.
This administration has asked House progressives to accept a lot of compromises. The public option out, the excise tax still being negotiated, all, of course, to keep the Senate happy.
Now the tables are turned. The president wants a national health insurance exchange not run by the states, which, of course, could open the door down the road to that of a public option. That is the House idea, but the Senate doesn‘t like it. They want every state to run their own exchange.
Joining me now is Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, and former presidential candidate.
Dennis, good to have you on tonight.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: Good to be you.
SCHULTZ: I know you‘re a single payer guy. I know you‘re an advocate for the people. But at this point it appears that there are still some major roadblocks as we head into the final moments of all of this.
How do you see it at this hour?
KUCINICH: Well, actually, the principal roadblock right now is this excise tax of 40 percent. Let me run through the numbers very quickly, Ed.
If you get $1,000 a month in health care benefits, that‘s $12,000 a year. They‘ll let you have the first $8,500 free. They will tax the remaining $3,500 at 40 percent.
That‘s $1,440 in taxes you‘ll pay a year. Now, if you‘re a worker, and you‘re working 2,000 hours a year—that‘s 40 hours a week times 50 -- you‘re going to be giving 70 cents an hour back in taxes for this because you have a decent health care plan.
This excise tax is a nonstarter. And I think that you‘re finding great resistance inside the Democratic Caucus. And no matter what the Senate wants to do, I can tell you, in the House of Representatives, this bill is in trouble if they think they can keep the excise tax in it.
SCHULTZ: OK. So, Congressman, do you think that there are enough liberals in the Congress over on the House side that would vote against it if the Senate version of the excise tax is in there? That would be dead on arrival, in your opinion?
KUCINICH: I think it would have great difficulty passing. I mean, the bill‘s tough enough to vote for the way it is. I mean, I‘m certainly very concerned about the fact that the right of states to have their own single payer system is basically stripped out.
But we need to continue to fight to make sure that we can provide for states, even in this last hour. But we also have to look at this excise tax. It‘s causing workers to give up hard-earned wages.
SCHULTZ: It‘s a bad deal. No doubt about it.
KUCINICH: It is a nightmare. And I think that‘s not going to fly.
SCHULTZ: Now, what do you make—the president meets with union leadership a couple of days ago. Thirty-six hours later, he comes out. It‘s reported last night that he wants the state—he wants the national exchange and not the state exchange. He‘s siding with the House on this.
How much is this going to help?
KUCINICH: Well, certainly any kind of concessions that the House can get back from the White House are a positive direction. But I just want to say, Ed, this excise tax, that‘s where the real battle is.
Keep your eye on that, because labor already gave up wage gains to get decent health care benefits. If you‘re telling people now because you have them you‘re going to pay a tax that could take 70 cents an hour out of your paycheck, that is not going to fly.
SCHULTZ: No, it‘s not going to fly. And the White House is going to have to change its position on this.
I was also told by one of your colleagues today that the abortion issue is heating up and everybody from all sides who‘s concerned, or has a dog in that fight, is up on Capitol Hill and we‘ve got a lot more to iron out on that.
These are some of the poll numbers that are out there as far as the American people are concerned.
A Gallup poll: “What should your lawmaker do on reform?” There is a slight advantage that the American people want their representative to vote for it.
As for the president‘s job approval rating, there it is. Most people think the president is doing the right thing.
And I know polls at this late hour may or may not mean or sway anybody either way. But what is the number one issue? Is it the excise tax? What would be the number one issue that would actually have liberals in the House turn to the president and say, we can‘t vote on this, we‘re going to help the Republicans stop your agenda?
KUCINICH: Well, I think that people are making a decision without regard to what the Republicans are doing. And with respect to the excise tax, that, as I see it right now, from what I‘ve been hearing from my colleagues, liberal and moderate, and even some conservatives, this excise deal is a deal-breaker because it causes people to have to give back money right out of their paychecks. It‘s going to cost people a lot of money and it‘s losing a lot of support for the bill, so we‘ll see what happens.
But I would keep your eye on that. That is the key issue at this point in the negotiations.
SCHULTZ: Congressman Kucinich, good to have you with us tonight.
Thanks so much.
KUCINICH: Thank you very much, Ed. Thank you.