The House narrowly approved health care bill H.R. 3590 on Sunday evening and President Obama signed the legislation into law on March 23. Prior to the House vote, NAHB sent a letter to every House member designating a vote opposing the bill as a key vote “given the detrimental impact H.R. 3590 will have on the home building industry.” The legislation contains a provision by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) that requires construction firms to provide health coverage if they employ five or more workers. Small businesses in every other industry would be exempt from providing mandatory health insurance if they employ 50 workers or less.
Immediately after passing H.R. 3590, the House approved an accompanying package of revisions (H.R. 4872) to the legislation. NAHB worked closely with lawmakers to ensure that one of the changes would eliminate the Merkley provision. H.R. 4872 was considered by the Senate under special reconciliation rules that require only a simple majority to pass, and the bill prevailed on a 56 to 43 vote. The measure was sent back to the House for one final vote after two minor provisions were removed due to a technical challenge by Senate Republicans. On Thursday evening the House approved the revised Senate package, which strikes the onerous Merkley requirement for small builders. President Obama is expected to sign the measure into law as early as today (March 26).
Despite the push to enact legislation quickly, and despite the chaos on Capitol Hill surrounding the health care debate, NAHB successfully led the charge in preventing enactment of an unfair, expensive measure that could have been devastating for the majority of our members. While there are still other aspects of the bill that we do not approve of, the legislation is extremely complex, and many of the provisions will have to be phased in over the next four years.