Paul plans amend­ment to gut ACA in tax bill

Santa Fe New Mexican - - NATION & WORLD - By Damian Paletta

WASHINGTON — Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on Tues­day said he planned to of­fer an amend­ment to the fast-mov­ing tax cut that would re­peal a key pro­vi­sion in the Af­ford­able Care Act, pos­ing a ma­jor test for Repub­li­cans as they try to se­cure a ma­jor leg­isla­tive vic­tory.

His comments, made in a se­ries of Twit­ter posts, could spur the first ma­jor in­tra­party fight over the tax cut bill in the Se­nate.

Paul also plans to pro­pose al­low­ing Amer­i­cans to deduct up to $10,000 in prop­erty taxes from their fed­eral in­come, a change that Se­nate GOP lead­ers have so far re­jected.

Paul said he would seek to amend a tax bill writ­ten by Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee Chair­man Or­rin G. Hatch, R-Utah, “to re­peal the in­di­vid­ual man­date and pro­vide big­ger tax cuts for mid­dle in­come tax­pay­ers.”

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump as re­cently as Mon­day called on Congress to in­clude a sim­i­lar change, though GOP law­mak­ers have so far been luke­warm to the idea, wor­ried that adding a health care change to a tax bill could splin­ter the party and cause the tax plan to col­lapse.

Sev­eral Repub­li­cans ear­lier this year re­jected the GOP ef­fort to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act, with some say­ing there should be a bi­par­ti­san ap­proach and oth­ers wor­ried about the un­in­tended con­se­quences of a rapid change.

Repub­li­cans hold just a 52-48 ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate, and so the de­fec­tion of just a few mem­bers could im­peril leg­is­la­tion. They are try­ing to pass the tax cut bill through a process known as rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, which means they only need a ma­jor­ity of sup­port to pass the bill.

The in­di­vid­ual man­date is a pro­vi­sion of the Af­ford­able Care Act that cre­ates penal­ties if Amer­i­cans don’t have health in­surance as a way to in­cen­tivize peo­ple to pur­chase cov­er­age. Re­peal­ing this man­date would strip away a cen­tral com­po­nent of the law, and it would also save more than $300 bil­lion over 10 years. Trump has said that money should be used to off­set low­er­ing the top tax rate for the wealth­i­est Amer­i­cans down to 35 per­cent.

Paul, in his Twit­ter post on Tues­day, sug­gested the sav­ings should be fo­cused on pro­vid­ing more tax cuts to the mid­dle class.

Im­por­tantly, Paul has not re­vealed whether he would op­pose the tax cut bill if his amend­ment is not ac­cepted. But he sug­gested in his Twit­ter posts that there were prob­lems in the Se­nate bill that need to be fixed.

He said in a sep­a­rate Twit­ter post Tues­day that his “amend­ment will fix a prob­lem in the Se­nate bill where many tax­pay­ers would see a tax in­crease be­cause of the loss of state and lo­cal de­duc­tion.”

In a tax-cut bill that the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives could ap­prove as soon as Thurs­day, Amer­i­cans would be per­mit­ted to deduct up to $10,000 in prop­erty taxes from their fed­eral tax­able in­come. They would no longer be per­mit­ted to deduct their state in­come taxes from their fed­eral in­come, but the prop­erty tax pro­vi­sion was meant as a way to as­suage com­plaints that Amer­i­cans in high-tax states like New York and New Jer­sey would be pro­tected from some of the changes.

Se­nate Repub­li­cans had so far tried to avoid the House con­ces­sion, con­vinced they didn’t need to make it be­cause there were not Se­nate Repub­li­cans in New Jer­sey or New York who might threaten to op­pose the bill. But Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have said more should be done in the Se­nate bill to en­sure that all Amer­i­cans re­ceive a tax cut, not just some.

So far, most es­ti­mates have found that a ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans would see their taxes go down un­der the House and Se­nate tax bills, but mil­lions of Amer­i­cans would still see an in­crease.

The Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee is de­bat­ing its ver­sion of the tax bill this week, and Repub­li­cans hope to ap­prove it within a day.

Paul is not a mem­ber of the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee, but he could of­fer his amend­ments dur­ing a de­bate on the Se­nate floor as soon as the week af­ter Thanksgiving.

The House and Se­nate must pass match­ing ver­sions of the tax cut bill be­fore they can be signed into law by Trump. Repub­li­cans are hope­ful they can pass the tax cut bill by early De­cem­ber.

Rand Paul

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