Democrats join GOP to attack Obamacare's 30-hour 'work week'

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It's taken nearly four years, but the first bipartisan bid to dismantle part of President Obama's signature health reform law -- the much-mocked 30 hour “work week” -- is headed for passage in the House with Democratic help, according to legislation sponsors.

Republican leaders plan to bring the “Save American Workers Act” to the floor as early as next week, and at least seven Democrats have pledged support, a small but significant first step toward bipartisan fixes to Obamacare that both sides are eyeing.

“It’s the first consequential bipartisan effort to fundamentally change the ACA,” said the original sponsor of the “SAW Act,” Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind.

Just this month, he announced that Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski, who represents Obama's hometown of Chicago, is a co-sponsor. Lipinski said, "Today I am happy to join with Rep. Young on his Save American Workers Act to make a bipartisan push to a floor vote on this commonsense issue. This needed change to the ACA will protect part-time workers from losing work schedule flexibility and potentially losing 10 hours of wages a week.”

A total of seven Democrats have signed on to the SAW Act.

It is among the first demonstrations of how the GOP-led House is shifting its approach to Obamacare. After voting over and over to repeal, the focus now is on making major changes. Young, for example, said that lawmakers can be for the president's health initiative and also support changing the number of hours in an Obamacare work week.

The legislation is backed by thousands of businesses, business groups and even colleges that have decried the administration’s decision to simply junk the standard 40-hour work week and change it to 30 hours. Under the law, employers will have to either provide health insurance to those who work 30 hours or more per week or pay a fine. The administration has delayed implementation for some companies.

Young felt the issue firsthand when Indiana University said it would have to cut the hours of workers it doesn't offer health insurance to, like instructional aides and cafeteria workers, to less than 30 hours, or face huge unexpected costs. That story has been told by thousands of small businesses.

The SAW Act would raise the hours in a workweek under Obamacare to the old standard of 40. Although some in the business community would compromise at 35 or 38 hours, Young said, “I can’t conceive of accepting anything less than 40 hours right now.”

A similar bill is working through the Senate. It, too, has bipartisanship sponsorship and is gaining Democratic support, though it would likely fail to pass today. Young said that he hopes the Senate will build on the momentum of the House bill after it passes.

Industry officials said changing Obamacare’s work week to 40 hours would relieve a potential accounting nightmare for small businesses that employ lots of part -time workers who put in less than 40 hours per week, but more than 30.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.