The Hill

Op-Ed: Ushering in a New Small Biz Committee

By Sen. David Vitter | February 10, 2015

The reason why the saying “small business is the backbone of the American economy” is so popular is because it’s true. Unfortunately, what’s also true is that Washington has never placed more crushing weights on that backbone. The Obama administration has unleashed an unprecedented onslaught of regulations that affect every small business in the country. And then there’s the biggest and worst impediment: ObamaCare.

Thanks to the Obama administration, business owners have to deal with hours of extra paperwork and compliance costs rather than spending their limited time and resources on more productive, job-growing activities. I’ve heard from many small-business owners who have said that, for the first time in their careers, they are not looking to grow their businesses in order to avoid paying higher healthcare costs. That’s tragic and scary.

As the newly elected chairman of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, I’m sure as heck going to do my part to reverse that trend. I’m committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to shape policy that will help.

We essentially have to get the federal government out of the way so that small businesses can do what they do best: create jobs and boost the economy while providing excellent products and service. In other words, carry on and expand the American dream.

Among my priorities on the Small Business Committee are growing our domestic energy industry, getting rid of the government impediments to growth and capital formation, reducing the tax burden on small businesses and, of course, repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

Already, the new committee has held a hearing — not in Washington, D.C., but in the real world, specifically Bossier City, La. There we were able to hear real-life stories of how small businesses are dealing with ObamaCare implementation, often by shrinking jobs.

Small businesses have limited access to healthcare choices and financial assistance to procure health insurance for their employees. Due to the massive bureaucratic mess, small businesses are facing major uncertainty in terms of determining whether or not they are subject to the employer mandate, are able to grow their businesses, are able to create jobs. Instead, small businesses are spending hours wading through complex accounting methods to figure out their business size and who is eligible for subsidies.

This kind of regulatory morass is a prime example of how government is holding small businesses back from succeeding. Like I said, some are not even looking to grow their businesses in order to avoid higher costs. One ObamaCare provision says that small businesses with more than 50 employees have to pay higher fees and deal with more red tape, which is why many businesses are avoiding hiring that 51st employee.

But guess who’s doing just fine with their healthcare through all of this? Congress. While small businesses suffer, Congress and the Obama administration created a loophole and designated itself a “small business” so they can keep their taxpayer-funded subsidy for ObamaCare by purchasing their plans through the District of Columbia Small Business Exchange. Nobody believes Congress is a small business.

I’ve dubbed this scenario Washington’s ObamaCare exemption, and it is completely unfair — even by Washington standards. I introduced legislation that would force the Washington elite, including all members of Congress, all congressional staff, the president, vice president, and all political appointees within the administration, to purchase their health insurance on the Obama-Care exchange, like the law intended, without this absurd abuse of the Small Business Exchange allowing Congress to enjoy a huge taxpayer-funded subsidy.

We discussed all of this at our recent field hearing too.

With this year’s work on the Small Business Committee, we’ll continue to make sure that the voices and concerns of small businesses across the country are heard. We’ll focus on regulatory reforms to reduce the paperwork burden and compliance costs for small businesses and eliminate disincentives for growth.

There’s clearly a lot of work to do, but we’re up for it. And we want to send the message that the Small Business Committee is here to truly work for and with America’s small businesses. We can start by getting rid of some of ObamaCare’s outrageous burdens, and by making Congress live under ObamaCare the same way the rest of America does. As a very practical matter, the sooner Washington eats its own cooking, the sooner it will start getting things right — on ObamaCare and a lot more.

Sen. David Vitter (R) is Louisiana’s senior senator, serving since 2005. He is chairman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. He also sits on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; the Environment and Public Works; and the Judiciary committees.