Firefighters Rip Obama For Breaking Campaign Promise Over Cadillac Tax

The International Association of Fire Fighters–an influential union that belongs to the AFL-CIO–has released the strongest condemnation yet of President Obama’s support for taxing high-end health insurance plans as a means of financing a major health care overhaul–accusing him of breaking a campaign promise, and threatening to hold him accountable.

“If candidates make a promise to us, we hold them accountable. We held President Bush accountable when he made decisions that had a negative impact on our members’ jobs and lives. We will do the same with President Obama,” reads a statement from IAFF President Harold Schaitberger. “In 2008, then-candidate Obama promised three things: he said he would not raise taxes on folks making less than $250,000 a year; he vowed not to tax health insurance benefits; and he promised that under his health reform plan, people would be able to keep their existing coverage.”

Now, President Obama supports the misguided excise tax passed by the Senate. The Senate bill will either subject the health care coverage provided to thousands of America’s fire fighters to a tax or those benefits will be slashed to avoid the tax….

The president’s support for the excise tax is a huge disappointment and cannot be ignored. If President Obama continues to support it and signs a bill that includes the excise tax on workers, we will hold him accountable.

The rebuke comes as Obama meets with a host of labor leaders, including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, at the White House tonight to sell them on his support of the tax, and find common ground.

Trumka made clear earlier today, that his organization’s top priorities in health care reform are the public option, the employer mandate, and the elimination of the excise tax. With the public option gone, and Obama still foursquare behind the excise tax, it seems evident that the country’s largest labor federation will walk away from the health care fight badly disappointed. Trumka, however, declined to say whether he could ultimately support a bill that didn’t address his top priorities.

Tomorrow evening, House Democrats, who overwhelmingly oppose the excise tax in the Senate bill, will gather to discuss health care reform at a caucus meeting. You can bet the excise tax will be a key focal point for them.

You can read Schaitberger’s entire statement below.

“The core political principle of this union is ‘we support those who support us.’ If candidates make a promise to us, we hold them accountable. We held President Bush accountable when he made decisions that had a negative impact on our members’ jobs and lives. We will do the same with President Obama.

“Throughout the debate on health care reform – even before excise tax on so-called high-cost health plans was proposed – this union made it clear to Congress and President Obama that our goal is reducing health care costs, preserving the benefits our members already have and avoiding piling more taxes on the backs of hardworking Americans.

“In 2008, then-candidate Obama promised three things: he said he would not raise taxes on folks making less than $250,000 a year; he vowed not to tax health insurance benefits; and he promised that under his health reform plan, people would be able to keep their existing coverage.

“Now, President Obama supports the misguided excise tax passed by the Senate. The Senate bill will either subject the health care coverage provided to thousands of America’s fire fighters to a tax or those benefits will be slashed to avoid the tax.

“We have made it clear to every senator and representative on Capitol Hill and President Obama that we are fully and completely opposed to this tax.

“The health care reform bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives does not contain the excise tax, and the House leadership continues to stand with us. We applaud our House allies for their courage as they wage this battle. This union will continue to fight to keep the excise tax out of the final bill.

“The president’s support for the excise tax is a huge disappointment and cannot be ignored. If President Obama continues to support it and signs a bill that includes the excise tax on workers, we will hold him accountable.”

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