There really isn’t any way to read this other than a shot directly across the AFL-CIO bow:
House Democrats are reportedly considering a new addition to their healthcare reform bill: a tax on high-cost insurance plans.
The proposed fee, which would likely mirror a similar provision already part of the Senate Finance Committee’s draft, has historically drawn the ire of lawmakers in both parties who fear insurance companies would translate the tax into an increase in subscribers’ premiums.
"We just have to see how much money we need for what," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told the Associated Press on Friday. "And if we’re taking the bill down in cost, there are other provisions in the Senate bill that bend the curve that might be more palatable. We’ll see."
In July, Reid told Baucus to "stop chasing Republican votes" by trying to tax health insurance benefits. So we know that the GOP will be delighted about this, as will Blue Dogs who won’t vote for a surtax on the wealthy.
But there are other politics being played out too. The AFL-CIO is most affected by a tax on high cost insurance plans — many of their workers have foregone wage hikes in exchange for comprehensive insurance for decades in contract negotiations. It’s what Gerry McEntee was talking about when he called the Baucus bill "bullshit." It empowers other unions with lower wage workers at the expense of those that organize higher wage workers, like many of those in the AFL-CIO.
It’s notable that among the Change to Win unions, only the Teamsters came out against the Baucus bill. (Whoever sold Hoffa on ditching the public plan is no doubt talking fast and trying to explain why he is now being kicked in the face.)
Incoming AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has been outspoken in his insistence on the inclusion of a public option in any health reform bill, and has threatened to withhold support from Democrats who won’t vote for it. Over the past week there was a lot of winking in reports that the White House was leaning on progressive groups to drop their support for the public option. It absolutely did happen, but the use of the word "groups" is probably misleading — the organization they are talking about, the only one that matters, is the AFL-CIO.
Since other unions outside the AFL-CIO are working the yo-yo on the trigger, Trumka is the lone holdout. He’s the mainstay, and there is tremendous pressure building within the AFL in response to arm twisting from the White House for him to cave. And if he falls, it’s going to be difficult for the rest of the veal pen not to follow suit. So, he’s being directly threatened.
The message is clear: "Get in line or we pay for your precious ‘public option’ by fucking you on health care benefits."
If Trumka suddenly starts singing the praises of triggers (even if they instantly "yo-yo" it back and insist he was misquoted), you’ll know it worked.