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The GOP Bill to Define the 40-Hour Work Week Explained

It is an attempt to cut a significant part of the Affordable Care Act.

One of the top items of business for House Republicans in the new Congress successfully passed Thursday. It would redefine the work week from 30 hours to 40 hours. No, it’s not an attempt to get you to work more, but it is an attempt to cut a significant part of the Affordable Care Act.

What would the bill do?

It’s called the Save American Workers Act of 2015 and it would require the work week to be defined as 40 hours rather than 30, which is mandated under the Affordable Care Act.

Why would it do that?

It would gut the employer mandate, which is a controversial part of the ACA. Employers would only be required to provide health benefits for workers who work 40 hours or more per week. Employers would then be able to give full-time workers 39 hours of work - nearly a full work week that would not hurt employee output – and avoid providing health insurance to the employee, which is required under the ACA. It’s much more difficult to cut a full-time worker’s hours to 29 hours to avoid providing health care.

Supporters, however, argue that the measure would actually preserve full-time work, pointing to anecdotal stories of employers hiring more part-time workers to avoid providing health coverage.

Who would be affected?

It would mostly impact lower-waged, hourly workers. Think retail and restaurant workers.

Who supports it?

Employers support it, including the National Retail Federation, the National Restaurant Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber is watching the vote closely and documenting how members vote.

“Workers would benefit from more hours and income, and employers would be able to focus on growing their business and creating jobs rather than restructuring their workforce,” Chamber Executive Vice President R. Bruce Josten wrote in a letter to members of Congress.

Who opposes it?

Many of the unions oppose the measure, including the AFL-CIO because they say that weakening the employer mandate will deprive workers of both health benefits and hours.

The AFL-CIO supports moving in the opposite direction and lowering the number of weekly hours to require health care to 20 per week in an attempt to further protect full-time employees from seeing any reduction in hours.

"There has been frustration with the 30-hour threshold and with people losing hours," AFL-CIO health care lobbyist Tom Leibfried admits. "What labor would like is a stronger set of employer responsibility requirements."

What impact would it have?

It would not change the number of uninsured much but would shift the burden of who provides health insurance from the employer to the government.

The Congressional Budget Office said 1 million people would lose their employer-provided health coverage. But it would increase the uninsured by about half of that – 500,000 people. That’s because many workers would then be eligible for Medicaid or the health exchanges.

Because the government would pick up many of the newly uninsured, it would add $53 billion to the budget deficit over the next ten years.

When will the Senate vote?

The measure is not scheduled yet in the Senate and likely won't take place before the vote on the XL Keystone pipeline, which probably won't occur until the end of January.

What does the president say?

President Barack Obama said he’d veto the legislation should it reach his desk.