Repealing vs. Reworking the CLASS Act

The House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee held a meeting on Wednesday to review the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act. Although the CLASS Act bill was passed and became a law over a year ago, committee members from both political parties acknowledge that the bill needs to be changed. Republicans were eager to repeal the act altogether and start anew, while the Democrats defended the CLASS Act and vied for merely making changes to amend the law in place.

Committee Chairman Dave Camp offered the opening statement to introduce HR 1173, “The Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act of 2011.” His remarks explained that the current CLASS program would create a huge drain on the federal budget and that it simply would not work. The Chairman cited White House staff and said, “even its supporters in the Administration have failed to find a way to make the CLASS program fiscally sustainable.” He then opened the floor to hear opinions of both parties.

Next to speak, Representative Charles W. Boustany Jr. (R-Louisiana), began by calling attention to the negative points of the CLASS Act. Because the program is not sustainable, he claimed it would be impossible to effectuate without increasing the overall financial burden on the nation. Mr. Boustany suggested private long-term health care as a more favorable solution to the current law. He called for the committee to do the “responsible, prudent thing.” Subsequently, Diane Black (R-Tennessee) recommended it would be better to completely take the program off the record and “wipe it off the slate and begin again” because this would “send a message to the American people that we’re serious about creating a solution.”

Representative Sandy Levin (D-Michigan), ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, was the first to present an opposing opinion. Mr. Levin expressed his party’s general position that the CLASS Act should not be repealed, but rather reworked. Each of the subsequent democratic committee members who spoke recognized that the current legislation could not stand in the future. However, instead of striking the program altogether, Democrats argued that both sides should come together to work on replacing the legislation with something else. Democrats also dismissed Republican complaints by noting that the CLASS Act had already been instituted for a full year, and Republicans had not yet proposed a bill with a better plan.

When members completed their arguments about repealing versus replacing the CLASS Act, the committee voted on whether the issue should be addressed by the full House of Representatives. The bipartisan vote passed 23-13. HR 1173 bill has passed both the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Ways and Means Committee and will now continue to consideration by the full House.