GOP Blasts Waxman on Abuse of Power

Republican lawmakers are denouncing Rep. Henry Waxman for summoning corporate executives to a congressional hearing on the financial impact of healthcare on their companies, saying his tactics are an “abuse of power.”

The corporations recently filed legally mandated reports on the impact associated with the new healthcare legislation, saying the new bill will cost their businesses hundreds of millions of dollars. Most of the new costs stem from a tax provision in the bill that will force companies to pay more for providing prescription drug coverage to retired workers.

AT&T says costs of the new healthcare law for their company is $1 billion, John Deere & Co., $150 million; Caterpillar, $100 million; 3M, $90 million; AK Steel, $21 million; Valero Energy, $30 million; and most recently Prudential Financial Inc. said it will take a $100 million hit in its first quarter. Their accounting also estimated there would be thousands of lay offs, and consumer-cost increases.

Rep. Waxman (D.-Calif.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is furious at the corporations for undercutting the new legislation and demanded that the company CEO’s come to Washington for a hearing April 21.

“The Democrats’ ‘surprise’ is hard to understand considering they were warned repeatedly about the massive new costs for U.S. employers. This bill creates a punishing new Medicare tax which the NFIB says small businesses will be ‘most likely’ to bear, killing jobs and pushing back our nation’s economic recovery,” said Rep. Peter J. Roskam (R.-Ill.).

Other Republicans called Waxman’s tactics an abuse of power.

“Do these liberal leaders really prefer corporations to violate their legal obligation and ultimately, freedom of speech in order to hide the truth about how Obamacare hurts job creators? This bullying is a clear abuse of power,” says Rep. Paul Broun (R.-Md.)

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R.-Ohio) said that Waxman’s concerns are misplaced: “Instead of interrogating America’s private sector job creators, Congress should be listening to them, heeding their warnings about the effects of this deeply flawed new law, and replacing it with reforms that will help them get back to creating jobs.”

Rep. Michael C. Burgess, M.D., ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee which will hold the hearings, said “the timing of the letters and the hearing and the scope of information requested looks an awful lot like an attempt to intimidate and silence opponents of Democrats’ flawed healthcare reform legislation … I believe the new law will have many negative effects on our nation’s healthcare system, including employer-sponsored health insurance companies like Verizon provide to their employees.."

Waxman, along with Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mich.), sent letters to AT&T, Verizon, Deere & Co., and Caterpillar, saying the committee wanted to hold a hearing to “examine the impact of the new law on AT&T and other large employers.”

“We request your personal testimony at this hearing,” read the Waxman and Stupak letter. The letter questioned the accounting by the corporations, saying they "appear to conflict with independent analyses" showing the law would lead to a decrease in premium costs for the companies.

The Democratic congressmen also requested a number of documents and explanations of accounting methods be provided to the committee by April 9.

James A. Klein, the president of the American Benefits Council, told the New York Times that more announcements like those of AT&T and Catepillar should be expected in coming days since they are required by accounting laws.

“We’re very troubled that these announcements have been challenged by officials in Obama Administration and Congress,” said Klein.

Klein implied that these filings are just the tip of the iceberg and that thousands more of them from large and small business alike will be forthcoming.

While Obama’s historic healthcare bill is now law, the political battle over its provisions is far from over.

Rep. John Shadegg (R.-Ariz.) said, “America’s largest job creators are already paying the price for the massive costs imposed by the healthcare bill forced down the throats of the American people exclusively by Washington Democrats.”