By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
SUNBURY — While neither Lou Barletta nor Tom Marino on Friday would discuss whether they will run for re-election in 2014, the Republican congressmen seemed eager to discuss issues they believe will resonate with Valley and national voters next year.
Barletta, of Hazleton, who represents the state’s 11th Congressional District, said his immediate focus will be on protecting his constituents from the what he calls the disastrous byproducts of Obamacare.
“It’s a bad law,” Barletta said.
But he also understands
that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and that President Barack Obama is likely to veto any legislation that undermines his landmark legislation. Barletta said the only option is to change the law, bit by bit.
Despite the botched rollout of Healthcare.gov in October, the problem with Obamacare is not the website, Barletta said.
“It’s the law itself,” Barletta said.
“For Lou, it’s also a question of fairness,” added Tim Murtaugh, Barletta’s spokesman. “Businesses have been given a one-year extension to sign up, but individuals don’t have that option. Or, rather, some people do. It’s all rather confusing.”
It’s also disturbing, Barletta said, how Obama is making changes to his own law without the consent of Congress.
Recently, Barletta was honored to receive the unanimous bipartisan support of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in endorsing his efforts to exempt volunteer fire departments from Obamacare.
Barletta this month introduced the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act, a bill to “specifically exempt volunteer firefighters and volunteers providing emergency medical services from the employer mandate provision” of the Affordable Care Act.
Barletta fears fire companies and municipalities will be forced to provide health insurance for volunteer firefighters — considered employees by the IRS — or be fined.
Employers with 50 or more workers must provide health insurance or face penalties under the employer mandate provision
Barletta said he will also continue to look for opportunities to build consensus from Republicans and Democrats on this issue and others such as expanding domestic energy production, stopping illegal immigration and eliminating government waste.
Recent increases in flood insurance premiums is a key issue for Marino, R-10 of Cogan Station. Since 1968, the National Flood Insurance Program has been assisting families and businesses to rebuild after devastating floods.
However, in the aftermath of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and Superstorm Sandy, the program is now $28 billion in debt.
“Because of this debt, Congress took action and passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012,” Marino said. “While this legislation was the best option at the time, it led to the unintended consequence of drastically increased premiums for some of those with flood insurance.”
“I have been hearing about these dramatic rate increases from my constituents for months now,” he said. “And while I understand the need for homeowners to pay a premium that reflects the actual risk of their property flooding, Congress needs to find a solution that ensures flood insurance remains an affordable safety net for low- and middle-class families.”