Crowley Stands Up for Health Rights, Small Businesses

March 16, 2011
Press Release

Washington, D.C.Today, Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), a Chief Deputy Whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, delivered the following remarks during the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures hearing on Republicans’ H.R. 3. This Act would infringe on Americans’ rights to make decisions about their own health as well as prohibit employers from receiving tax credits for employees’ health care coverage if the plan includes abortion care, ultimately raising costs for employees’ health insurance and burdening America’s small businesses.

Crowley’s remarks as prepared are below:
“Thank you Mr. Chairman for allowing me to participate in today’s subcommittee hearing. One of the bills under review is H.R. 3. That’s right: bill number three.  That means its enactment is a top priority for the Republican majority.

“So, to put it in perspective – the Republicans’ first priority, H.R. 1: cutting more than 700,000 American jobs. 

“Their second priority, H.R. 2: repealing the American people’s access to the same kinds of health care members of Congress receive and adding $230 billion dollars to the deficit. 

“Now, priority number three: placing burdens on small businesses, hindering economic growth and job creation and intruding on the American people’s ability to make decisions about their health without Uncle Sam sitting at their bedside.

“Tick tock, tick tock…I guess we will continue to wait for the Republicans’ jobs agenda. 

“In the meantime, let’s take a look at how H.R. 3 will hurt America’s small businesses.

“Mr. Barthold [committee witness, Mr. Tom Barthold, Chief of Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation], Section 303, clause 1 of H.R. 3 prohibits tax credits for any health benefits that happen to include abortion. In the Joint Committee’s analysis of the tax provisions impacted by H.R. 3, you identified eight tax credits that would be affected by this clause alone, correct? And one of these tax credits is the small business tax credit included in the Affordable Care Act, which assists small businesses who provide private health care coverage to their employees, correct? This tax credit is worth 35% of the costs of providing private health insurance coverage.

“In 2014, it will increase to 50% of the costs of providing health insurance. It is still early, but we have already seen that more small businesses are now providing private health insurance to their employees as a result of this tax credit. However, if this private health insurance happens to include abortion care – as 87% of private health plans do – then these employers will no longer be eligible for this tax credit under H.R. 3.

“This means that every small business owner – right down to the moms and pops running a restaurant – will have to sort through pages of fine print just to apply for this tax credit.

“It’s not always easy to tell whether a plan excludes abortion procedures. With the time that they could spend growing their business and creating jobs, small business owners will instead spend their time flipping through paperwork and on the phone – and on hold – with their insurer’s customer service to confirm the details.

“We’ve heard a lot of rhetoric lately about eliminating burdens on small businesses. You might even recognize some of these same exact arguments from the debate over the 1099 requirement. I support repealing the 1099 requirement because I agree that we need to reduce paperwork and regulatory hoops that small business owners have to jump through. What I don’t understand is why Republicans now want to impose an avalanche of new paperwork on small businesses.

“And let me be clear, these new onerous rules on the employer-provided health care offered by the Republicans pertain to private health insurance plans offered to private sector small businesses. 

“We are not talking about the health plan for federal employees that is subsidized by our employers – American taxpayers. That plan already prohibits any funding for abortion coverage.

“So why are we adding these new job-killing, onerous provisions on small businesses, the engine for job creation in America?  Why is this bill priority number three?

“I know you can’t answer that question, Mr. Barthold, but neither can I and I am frustrated.

“Under this Republican proposal, the Internal Revenue Service will have to divert resources from finding tax cheats to scrutinizing every single small business’ filing to ensure they are not offering health coverage to their employees that offer abortion services.

“Mr. Barthold, I know this bill doesn't bother to get into the details of how this new intrusion into private health care will be enforced, so I’m not going to ask you to speculate, but it seems likely to me that H.R. 3 would create a massive and unnecessary burden on small business owners, and will give vast new powers to the IRS to examine our individual health care decisions.

“Aside from the burdens on small businesses and the expanded reach of the IRS into health care choices, H.R. 3 would also mean a brand-new tax increase, as legitimate health care expenses could now be subject to additional taxes just because a taxpayer’s coverage happens to include abortion.

“Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, an advocacy group that sponsored the pledge 237 House members signed promising not to raise taxes this year, was quoted in a Bloomberg article dated March 16, 2011, on the tax increase implications of H.R. 3. 

“Mr. Norquist states that while he understands the point Republicans are trying to make, policy should “not ever mask a net tax increase.”

“H.R. 3 contains a net tax increase that is being hidden under the pretense of policy.

“I would like to submit for the record the Bloomberg article highlighting the ways that H.R. 3 would in fact constitute a tax increase, as my Republican colleagues prepare to once again violate the pledge they signed and raise taxes.”

Congressman Crowley is a seven-term representative from the 7th Congressional District of New York, which includes sections of Queens and the Bronx. He serves as chief deputy whip in the Democratic leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives and is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is responsible for all tax, trade and Social Security issues, as well as health and retirement security.