President Obama is in the Room

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Not really, but his promises are – namely, his health reform promise that “if you like what have, you can keep it” and his campaign pledge not to raise taxes on American families whose income is less than $250,000 year. Republicans are doing their best to keep these promises fresh in everyone’s mind, while pointing out how they believe those promises are being broken. And Chairman Max Baucus is doing his best to defend the President.

After Republican Senator John Ensign brought up the “if you like what you have…” promise for the second or third time today, Baucus decided it was time to step in. “We’re gonna hear a lot of this from a certain side and I just think it’s important to clear the air a little bit… The fact is today, you can’t keep what you like in many cases without passing a new law…Employers are changing plans all the time…That is the current status quo.” But Baucus said with his bill, “people are more likely to like what they have and if they want to move, they can more easily move.”

During his weekend talk show tour, President Obama tried to counter charges that the penalty for not having health insurance would be a “tax.” The Baucus bill says, due to the individual mandate, those who don’t buy insurance will be subject to an “excise tax.” It’s a safe bet that some middle-class Americans will not get insurance and will be subject to this. Charles Grassley was eager to point this out today, even bringing up Obama’s promise. Baucus insisted that the only reason the penalty is described as a tax is because the Internal Revenue Service is the best federal agency equipped to collect the penalty. “It’s really a penalty,” he stated, only to have Grassley reiterate that the IRS will be the agency collecting it. The amount people will have to pay if they don’t get health insurance will be the same regardless however the amount is described. But it wouldn’t be surprising to see this come up again somewhere – like in a Republican campaign ad.