Majority Leader Harry Reid is considering a plan for higher payroll taxes on the upper-income earners to help finance health care legislation he intends to introduce in the Senate in the next several days, numerous Democratic officials said Wednesday.
These officials said one of the options Reid has had under review would raise the payroll tax that goes to Medicare, but only on income above $250,000 a year. Current law sets the tax at 1.45 percent of income, an amount matched by employers.
It was not known how large an increase Reid, D-Nev., was considering, or whether it would also apply to a company's portion of the tax. President Barack Obama has said he will not raise taxes on wage earners making less than $250,000.
The officials spoke only on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to disclose details of private deliberations.
Reid's spokesman, Jim Manley, declined comment and said the majority leader has made no final decisions and is awaiting detailed information from the Congressional Budget Office about the cost and coverage implications of the proposals he has drafted.
Reid sent his proposals to the CBO more than two weeks ago and recently took the first step on the Senate floor to begin a debate on health care as early as next week.
The House passed its version of the legislation late last week on a near party line vote of 220-215, a victory for Obama as well as his allies in Congress.
In general, the House-passed measure and the one Reid is expected to propose are designed to expand coverage to tens of millions of uninsured, eliminate insurance industry practices such as denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions, and slow the overall rate of growth in health care spending nationally.
Reid has been merging bills cleared earlier by two separate committees but has a virtual free hand in the bill he crafts. Continued...