House Dems Look At Taxing The Rich For Health Care

House Democrats at work on health legislation are narrowing in on an income tax surcharge on the highest-paid wage earners to help pay the cost of subsidizing insurance for the 50 million who lack it.

Pushing to complete a comprehensive health care bill by Friday and bring it up for committee votes next week, House Democrats abandoned earlier money-raising proposals, including a payroll tax. They planned to meet behind closed doors Thursday to fine-tune the details.

The action in the House stood in contrast to the Senate, where Democrats edged away from their goal of passing health care legislation by early August amid heightening partisan controversy over tax increases and a proposed new government role in providing insurance to consumers.

As discussed in the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, the surtax would apply to individuals with adjusted gross income of more than $200,000 and couples over $250,000, according to officials involved in the discussion. Most spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were private.

In addition, key lawmakers are expected to call for a tax or fee equal to a percentage of a worker's salary on employers who do not offer health benefits.

Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., has said his committee needs to come up with $600 billion in new taxes to deliver on President Barack Obama's goal of sweeping changes to the nation's health care system to bring down costs and cover the 50 million uninsured. Hundreds of billions of dollars more would come from cuts to Medicare and Medicaid to pay for legislation expected to cost around $1 trillion over 10 years.

Top administration officials, including White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, conferred with Rangel's committee Democrats on Wednesday as they met throughout the day.

"They know what I'm thinking about and I have no reason to believe I'll have any problems with them on that part of the bill," Rangel said of the tax proposals.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., a member of the panel, said the proposed surtax on high-income taxpayers appealed to her and others as a way to avoid a "nickel-and-dime" approach involving numerous smaller tax increases.

Lawmakers cautioned that no final decisions have been made, either by the tax-writing committee or by the Democratic leadership, which hopes to have legislation drafted by the end of the week and through the House by month's end.

Smaller tax options remained possibilities, depending on the overall cost of the legislation, including a tax on sugared soft drinks and ending a tax break that drug companies receive for advertising.

In the Senate, New York Democrat Chuck Schumer told The Associated Press that he believes the "ultimate goal" is to have a bill by the end of the year that is signed into law by the president.

Separately, Republicans who met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he expressed flexibility on the timetable, indicating that he was willing to allow more time before legislation is brought to the floor.

Any failure to meet the August goal would be a setback — but not necessarily a fatal one — for Obama's attempt to achieve comprehensive health care legislation this year. A group of Democratic and Republican senators led by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., is still working toward a bipartisan deal, but that effort appeared set back by concerns Reid and other leading Democrats expressed this week over a tax on health care benefits that Baucus was considering to pay for it.

The White House expressed its support Wednesday for the emerging House legislation, noting that the Congressional Budget Office had said planned changes to Medicare would save more than $500 billion over 10 years. A significant part of that money would come from the steep reduction in subsidies paid to insurance companies that offer private Medicare coverage.

But in a letter to Rangel and other committee chairmen, budget director Peter Orszag urged additional cuts in projected Medicare and Medicaid spending, as well as consideration of a plan to give an independent commission a greater role in setting future payments rates for Medicare health care providers — something that could weaken Congress' involvement.

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  • by Dwayne Location: Greenville on Jul 10, 2009 at 08:42 AM
    The college professor told you what he was going to do and now you are upset? If you voted for Obama and you are rich, get ready for your reward. Taxes from the rich will not help the working middle class. It will help those who refuse to help themselves and want the government to provide for their every need. If your tired of the words socialism, Marxism, dictator, vote the man out of office if he isn't impeached before. The rich will just take their money and invest it elsewhere. Vote for real change in 2010 and 2012. We at least need a balanced Congress where there are true checks and balances. Right now, it a filibuster free locomotive running downhill with no brakes.
  • by ace Location: plymouth on Jul 10, 2009 at 06:11 AM
    Give to the poor, to the smart (People who use the system), the healthy (People who are able to work but don't) and they will give you their VOTE every time.
  • by Dave Location: Wilson on Jul 9, 2009 at 07:54 PM
    This is Jimmy Carter Part II. Restricting and punishing the productive part of your society is not only unfair but contrary to common sense. So the people with exceptional skill, who worked hard, studied hard, made good choices.....Hey, lets punish them!!!
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: San Diego on Jul 9, 2009 at 07:04 PM
    Comrade Alex, it is only a matter of time before our freedom to express our opinion is gone. You have noticed the chosen one has appointed Czars? Those ain't Czars, they are KGB.
  • by Alex Location: Vanceboro on Jul 9, 2009 at 06:03 PM
    sounds like something from the kremelin
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: San Diego, CA on Jul 9, 2009 at 06:00 PM
    OK, I travel!! Here where I visit, taxes are so high people are leaving. Yep, packing it up and moving. They can no longer afford the price to live here. Ya know, the things Bev and the boys are doing in Raleigh, well, this is proof of it. It is a social program gone all wrong with Ca med care and give away. Of course all of you know they are seeking federal help since they are so in debt? Well, this is the model for America Obama and Pelosi bring. Yep, this is the change that has destroyed Ca and Mass as well. Like Walt said, every work for a poor guy? Probably not. Kat, this is what this party is all about, reparations to the "non working" people, not the poor. The cigarette tax effects the poor and middle class more than anybody and they know that. They are taxing services now, raising the sales tax to above Tenn who doesn't have income tax, and it is still not enough. Bob, I have about $.17 left in change comrade, Bev and Obamamama took the rest.
  • by Bob Location: Belhaven on Jul 9, 2009 at 05:04 PM
    Come on people its called socialism/communism and it worked so well for Russia and others. Once they tax the rich $200,000 wage earners and spend that then it will be the middle class etc. All you are going to have left is "The Change".
  • by Richard Location: Goldsboro on Jul 9, 2009 at 01:36 PM
    Are they Nuts
  • by Kat on Jul 9, 2009 at 10:15 AM
    If taxing the rich was the only tax then I'd say go for it. But they are also planning on taxing soda's, cigarettes and alcohol (yet again on the last 2). I'm sure there are some other taxes I haven't read about yet. Why should we have to keep supporting everyone else? I feel sorry for the people that were working and have lost their jobs. But, if I keep having to support everyone else I will never be able to support myself again. This health bill will not help anything, it will bring poor health care and more taxes for the working class. While the poor sit on their butts and get everything free.
  • by SICK OF FREE LOADERS Location: WASHINGTON on Jul 9, 2009 at 06:49 AM
    If you have a job, work real hard and make a lot of money so the government can take some to give to those who are sitting on their porch waiting for the mailman to bring it to them. I think I will gqit my job, sell everything I have and get in public housing and wait for my check.
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