News and Tribune

Clark County

January 23, 2014

Setting priorities: Coats talks about health care, coal and bipartisanship

Lays out road map at One Southern Indiana event

NEW ALBANY — He spoke of bipartisanship, but most of Sen. Dan Coats’ 2014 road map shared with business leaders and elected officials at One Southern Indiana Thursday centered around Republican-backed issues.

Repealing or delaying portions of the Affordable Care Act, easing restrictions on the coal and natural gas industries and eliminating government waste were among the key topics Coats discussed, though he stressed there are opportunities to work across the aisle on those issues.

“It’s no secret that last year was a miserable, frustrating, get-nothing-done year,” said Coats, R-Ind. “I’m cautiously optimistic that 2014 will be better.”

While repealing the Affordable Care Act isn’t likely, Coats said there are some portions of the legislation he believes both Democrats and Republicans would like to change, specifically the Medical Device Tax.

The tax burdens employers in the industry and could threaten jobs in Indiana, Coats said.

Some Democrats and Republicans have also stepped forward and asked the 30-hour threshold for full-time employment be changed to 40 hours a week.

If it isn’t, employers with 50 or more workers will be penalized beginning in 2015 for not offering health insurance to any employee that works 30 or more hours a week.

Coats co-sponsored legislation to delay the individual mandate of the ACA, but that was denied by the White House.

While Coats — who helped orchestrate a monthly meeting of Indiana Congressional delegates, both Republican and Democratic — said bipartisanship is needed, he did touch on a recent disagreement with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

While Congress was considering proposals to expand emergency unemployment benefits programs earlier this month, Coats proposed four amendments to retool the system.

He said he voted in favor of proceeding with the discussion because he believed the Senate would weigh those amendments as well as other Republican suggestions, but Reid rejected those proposals.

Coats told Reid that he was representing the people of Indiana, and “their voice is shut down” because of his actions.

“I thought he’d really pushed it over the line,” Coats said Thursday.

But while the White House and possibly the Senate will be under Democratic control through 2016, Coats said Republicans still must push for sound fiscal policies.

“I refuse to accept that as an excuse for not doing something,” Coats said.

The United States could put itself in a more advantageous position to attract businesses and spur economic development by ending some of the limits the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has placed on the energy industry, especially coal, he continued.

Some believe several Indiana coal-powered energy plants could be shut down as a result of possible new restrictions to carbon dioxide emissions.

With coal and natural gas leading the way and alternate forms of energy used as support, the U.S. could satisfy most of its energy needs at more affordable rates, Coats said.

“It could be a tremendous advantage to the United States going forward if we don’t mess it up,” Coats said. “These mandates are totally making us not competitive , and they don’t make any sense.”

Coats traveled around Indiana this week to lay out his legislative road map for 2014, which he has labeled “The Indiana Way.”

Other priorities on his list include simplifying the tax code, growing manufacturing and supporting public infrastructure in Indiana.

Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore attended the press conference at 1si, and he said Coats’ backing of road and infrastructure projects in Indiana could be quite important locally.

“That really hits home to us,” Moore said.

 

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