Red tape cut in health care law

Stephen Dinan|Washington Times

Congress on Tuesday revoked the first significant parts of President Obama’s health care initiative when the Senate voted overwhelmingly to eliminate a burdensome tax paperwork requirement the law imposes on businesses.

Republicans called the bill “a down payment on total repeal” while most Democrats said it marked an improvement in last year’s law. The bill had previously cleared the House and now goes directly to Mr. Obama.

But it marked a rare flash of bipartisanship on a day when Democrats and Republicans otherwise clashed over short-term and long-term spending as they girded for a government shutdown by week’s end.

“Just as the executive branch is doing, we’re also preparing for the possibility of a shutdown,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, told reporters after a morning meeting at the White House between top Republicans and Democrats failed to produce a breakthrough.

Even with that battle unresolved, House Republicans opened a new front in the spending wars when Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan unveiled his 2012 spending blueprint, calling for major changes to both Medicare and Medicaid, the big health care programs that are projected to drive up federal deficits in coming years.

The government’s staggering debt and annual trillion-dollar deficits have dominated the discussion in Washington since the beginning of the year, but have come to a head as Congress races to beat an April 8 deadline, when stopgap funding expires.

Republicans are demanding deep cuts in spending and Democrats have slowly been moving in their direction, though they argue the GOP is pushing too far.

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