The U.S. Senate on Dec. 3 sent a broad, bi-partisan message to the White House that Obamacare’s so-called “Cadillac tax” is wrong for middle class Americans.

The 90-10 vote on a largely symbolic measure is hardly a death knell for the controversial health law provision, but it did cast a spotlight on the majorities in both chambers who would like nothing more than to see the tax repealed.

As the IBEW reported in October, the tax, which is scheduled to take effect in 2018, is already impacting labor negotiations all over America. Because union members have sacrificed salary in favor of better health care for years, working families will bear the brunt of the limits on health care premiums when the provision is implemented.

The Cadillac tax, as it stands, sets strict limits of $10,200 per individual and $27,500 per family on the costs of health care plans and enforces those caps with a heavy 40 percent excise tax on any costs that exceeds them. Proponents argue that limiting such high-cost plans are the only effective way to curb overuse of the health care system.

“Thursday’s vote was an important victory for us,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “But we haven’t won anything yet. Now is the time to double down and tell members of Congress to make sure our hard-won health benefits are protected.”

Stephenson thanked all of the IBEW business managers, international vice presidents and other activists who have been lobbying hard over the last several months. “We’ve got the support in Congress to finally get this tax repealed,” he said, “and that hasn’t come from Washington; it’s come from the states where working men and women stand to have their health benefits cut back if Congress doesn’t act.”

As with anything in Washington, however, simply having a majority support doesn’t guarantee success. Currently, more than 300 members of the House are signed onto bills calling for a full repeal of the Cadillac tax and Thursday’s vote showed an overwhelming majority in the Senate.

But more needs to be done to convince the remaining members of Congress and those in the White House that the health law must be changed.

“Democrats from states with higher healthcare costs – New York, New Jersey, California, Massachusetts, Illinois, etc – are going to feel the heat from this thing first,” said Dan Gardner, an international representative in the Political and Legislative Department who has been working for months building support for repeal on Capitol Hill.

Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) were among the seven Democrats who voted against repealing the tax this week, and a number of their House colleagues from high-cost states have been reluctant to co-sponsor either of the bills put forward there.

“It’s important to keep calling these people and telling them we need them to support us,” Gardner said. “A few dozen calls from their district asking them to get on board with repealing this tax are more effective than all the lobbying in the world.”

Call your members of Congress and tell them to say ‘No’ to taxing our health benefits. Repeal the Cadillac tax this year.

Democratic Senators Voting Against Repeal

Barbara Boxer – California          
Tom Carper – Deleware
Dick Durbin – Illinois
Claire McCaskill – Missouri
Tim Kaine – Virginia
Mark Warner – Virginia
Joe Manchin – West Virginia

Democrats Not Co-Sponsoring House Bills

Jared Hoffman – California
Jim Costa – California
Doris Matsui – California
Xavier Becerra – California
Nancy Pelosi – California
Mike Thompson – California
Jared Polis – Colorado
Diana DeGette – Colorado
John Carney – Delaware
Seth Mouton – Massachusetts
Richard Neal – Massachusetts
Niki Tsongas – Massachusetts
Steny Hoyer – Maryland
John Sarbanes – Maryland
Sandy Levin – Michigan
William Lacy Clay, Jr. – Missouri
David Price – North Carolina
G.K. Butterfield – North Carolina 

Frank Pallone – New Jersey
Steve Israel – New York
Gregory Meeks – New York
Joseph Crowley – New York
Charlie Rangel – New York
Earl Blumenauer – Oregon
Kurt Schrader – Oregon
Jim Clyburn – South Carolina
Jim Cooper – Tennessee
Joaquin Castro – Texas
Beto O’Rourke – Texas
Lloyd Doggett – Texas
Robert Scott – Virginia
Gerald Connolly – Virginia
Don Beyer – Virginia
Rick Larsen – Washington
Denny Heck – Washington
Ron Kind – Wisconsin


Photo used under a Creative Commons License from Flickr user KOMUnews.