Is it a health care or a union-subsidization bill? 

There are many little payoffs to favored constituencies tucked away in the Senate's massive health care bill but this is so blatant even the New York Times took notice:

Early versions of the Senate’s far-reaching health care bill said that small businesses with fewer than 50 workers would not be penalized if they failed to provide insurance. That was before labor unions in the construction industry went to work and persuaded Senate leaders to insert five paragraphs.

Their provision, added to the 2,074-page bill at the last minute, singles out the construction industry for special treatment, in a way that benefits union members and contractors who use union labor.

In this one industry, the exemption from the penalty would be much more limited, available only to employers with fewer than five employees. Construction companies with five or more workers would generally have to provide health insurance or pay a penalty — an excise tax of $750 per employee.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, asked: “Why this assault on the home builders? I don’t get it.”

I presume that Sen. Murkowski's question is rhetorical, but I'll go ahead and answer it anyway. Democrats care far more about getting campaign cash from unions than they do about making housing affordable or incentivizing new construction that would provide jobs amidst a major economic crisis. Unemployment in the construction industry is already sky high, and this won't help. This also puts smaller contruction companies at a huge competitive disadvantage.

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Mark Hemingway

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