Se­nate GOP in­sist­ing on Oba­macare re­peal for tax over­haul

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - BUSINESS - BY MARCY GOR­DON

WASH­ING­TON — Se­nate Repub­li­cans said Tues­day they are in­tent on re­peal­ing the Obama health care law re­quire­ment that Amer­i­cans get health in­sur­ance, tar­get­ing the pro­vi­sion as a way to pay for GOP leg­is­la­tion cut­ting cor­po­rate taxes and in­di­vid­ual rates. The sur­prise re­newal of the failed ef­fort to re­peal the law’s man­date came a day af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­newed pres­sure on GOP law­mak­ers to in­clude the re­peal in their tax over­haul leg­is­la­tion.

The move by Repub­li­cans in the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee also was dic­tated by the Repub­li­cans’ need to find rev­enue sources for the mas­sive tax­cut bill that calls for steep re­duc­tions and elim­i­na­tion of some pop­u­lar tax breaks.

Tar­get­ing the man­date in the tax leg­is­la­tion would save an es­ti­mated $338 bil­lion over a decade that could be used to help pay for the deep cuts.

“We are op­ti­mistic that in­sert­ing the in­di­vid­ual man­date re­peal would be help­ful; that’s ob­vi­ously the view of the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee Repub­li­cans,” Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., told re­porters.

With­out be­ing forced to get cov­er­age, fewer peo­ple would sign up for Med­i­caid or buy fed­er­ally sub­si­dized pri­vate in­sur­ance.

The Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice has es­ti­mated re­peal­ing the re­quire­ment that peo­ple buy health cov­er­age would mean 4 mil­lion ad­di­tional unin­sured peo­ple by 2019 and 13 mil­lion more by 2027.

The House bill, which is ex­pected to pass Thurs­day, does not cur­rently in­clude re­peal of the man­date, which re­quires most peo­ple to buy in­sur­ance cov­er­age or face a fine.

Repub­li­can Sens. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky and Tom Cot­ton of Arkansas had pushed for the re­peal in the tax bill, just months af­ter GOP ef­forts to dis­man­tle the 2010 health care law had col­lapsed in the Se­nate.

“Re­peal­ing the man­date pays for more tax cuts for work­ing fam­i­lies and pro­tects them from be­ing fined by the IRS for not be­ing able to af­ford in­sur­ance that Oba­macare made un­af­ford­able in the first place,” Cot­ton said in a state­ment.

Mi­nor­ity Democrats on the Fi­nance panel ex­ploded with anger when word came of the Repub­li­cans’ move.

Sen. Ron Wy­den, D-Ore., said it “will cause mil­lions to lose their health care and mil­lions more to lose their pre­mi­ums.”

Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans pro­jected con­fi­dence ear­lier in the day about de­liv­er­ing the leg­is­la­tion, with Trump planning an in-per­son ap­peal to law­mak­ers ahead of a cru­cial House vote this week.

“This bill will make things bet­ter for hard-work­ing Amer­i­cans,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told re­porters.

House GOP lead­ers ral­lied sup­port with the rank-and­file at a closed-door meet­ing. Un­der­scor­ing the sharp po­lit­i­cal stakes for Trump, who lacks a ma­jor leg­isla­tive achieve­ment af­ter nearly 10 months in of­fice, is his planned meet­ing with House Repub­li­cans on Thurs­day ahead of an ex­pected vote on the leg­is­la­tion.

In its sec­ond day of work on the Se­nate ver­sion of leg­is­la­tion re­vamp­ing the tax sys­tem. Mi­nor­ity Democrats on the panel com­plained the bill would en­able U.S. cor­po­ra­tions with for­eign op­er­a­tions and wealthy in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies to ex­ploit loop­holes to skirt mil­lions in taxes.

“It sure looks like a lot of gam­ing to me,” said Sen. Ron Wy­den of Ore­gon, the com­mit­tee’s se­nior Demo­crat.

On Mon­day, a non­par­ti­san anal­y­sis of the Se­nate bill showed it ac­tu­ally would in­crease taxes for some 13.8 mil­lion mod­er­ate-in­come Amer­i­can house­holds.

Pro­moted as needed re­lief for the mid­dle class, the House and Se­nate bills would deeply cut cor­po­rate taxes, dou­ble the stan­dard de­duc­tion used by most Amer­i­cans and limit or re­peal com­pletely the fed­eral de­duc­tion for state and lo­cal prop­erty, in­come and sales taxes. Repub­li­can lead­ers in Congress view pas­sage of the first ma­jor tax re­vamp in 30 years as im­per­a­tive for the GOP to pre­serve its ma­jori­ties in next year’s elec­tions.

Trump’s planned pitch on Capi­tol Hill, af­ter re­turn­ing from his Asia trip, was dis­closed by a White House of­fi­cial who wasn’t au­tho­rized to dis­cuss pub­licly the pres­i­dent’s sched­ule and spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press on con­di­tion of anonymity. In the mean­time, Trump tweeted into the de­bate Mon­day by urg­ing Repub­li­can lead­ers to get more ag­gres­sive in the tax leg­is­la­tion. He called for a steeper tax cut for wealthy Amer­i­cans and the ad­di­tion of a con­tentious health care change to the al­ready com­plex mix.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan points to boxes of petitions supporting the Repub­li­can tax re­form bill set for a vote later this week.

Don­ald Trump

Mitch McCon­nell

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