WASHINGTON — Months ago, when Republican Rep. Dan Lungren proposed the first major change to the new health care law, his idea fizzled.
He wanted to get rid of what he nicknamed the Universal Snitch Act: It's a provision in the law that would force businesses to report any transactions of more than $600 to the Internal Revenue Service.
Now his idea has picked up momentum: It is part of the new GOP Pledge to America, which House Republicans are promising to enact next year, and it won a key endorsement earlier this month from President Barack Obama.
"It's kind of interesting to go from being a guy who's the pest on the windshield to being one of the leaders in something," said Lungren, of Gold River, the incoming chairman of the House Administration Committee. "When I first brought it up, there was concerted effort on the Democratic side not to even acknowledge what I was doing."
The president cited Lungren's bill as an area where he can work with the new GOP House majority.
At a news conference, Obama said the provision "appears to be too burdensome for small businesses" and should be examined.
"It just involves too much paperwork, too much filing," the president said. "It's probably counterproductive."
He said the measure was designed to raise revenue to pay for other provisions in the bill.
"But if it ends up just being so much trouble that small businesses find it difficult to manage, that's something that we should take a look at."
Replied Lungren: "I'm pleased that the president has said that it's burdensome."
Lungren's bill, called the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act, has 179 co-sponsors, including Republican Rep. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate by Republican Mike Johanns of Nebraska.
The legislation would scrap a provision in the health care law that would require businesses to file a 1099 tax form whenever they purchased more than $600 worth of goods or services from an entity or individual.
At a Senate hearing last week, Lawrence Nannis, chairman of the National Small Business Association, called the mandate "an ugly byproduct" of the health care law.
"The only solution to the huge problem posed by the new 1099 reporting provision is full repeal," Nannis said.
Lungren said the law would allow the federal government "to have a paper trail for every purchase you make."
Even though it took him months to get the bill on the Washington radar, Lungren said his legislation "explains itself" and has not attracted any significant opposition.
"Once you see it, how can you justify it?" he asked of the mandate.