Aug. recess delayed
McConnell seeks time to complete work on bill, other issues
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced Tuesday he would cut the Senate’s August recess in half, saying Republicans needed more time to achieve their legislative goals given the protracted negotiations over health-care legislation and continued opposition from Democrats on several fronts.
“To provide more time to complete action on important legislative items and process nominees that have been stalled by a lack of cooperation from our friends across the aisle, the Senate will delay the start of the August recess until the third week of August,” McConnell said.
In addition to health care and appointments, the Senate also will devote time to passing a defense authorization bill “and other important issues,” McConnell said. The Senate will now remain at work through the week of Aug. 7.
Work on the Senate’s health-care bill remained uncertain Tuesday, although McConnell told reporters he will release a revised bill by Thursday morning and hopes to receive a Congressional Budget Office analysis of that measure by the beginning of next week so the chamber can vote quickly.
McConnell’s announcement appeared designed to give Republicans time to move to other matters, such as raising the federal debt ceiling, after dispatching with a health-care vote.
“The debt ceiling must be raised,” McConnell told reporters.
GOP leaders are still tweaking their health-care plan to attract more votes, especially from centrists. McConnell is prepared to preserve two of the Affordable Care Act’s existing taxes on individuals earning more than $200,000 annually and couples earning more than $250,000 for several years, according to multiple Republican lawmakers and aides briefed on the plan. One is a 3.8 percent tax on investment
income, and another is a 0.9 percent tax on wages and self-employment income.
By keeping these two taxes in place for five to seven years, according to several Republicans, the federal government could steer more money to a stabilization fund that could to help offset consumers’ health care costs while the new GOP plan goes into effect.
But the ideological disagreement over how to revise the ACA raged on among Republicans.
Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., said the debate over how to address taxes in the bill is being “fairly hotly discussed and litigated” among GOP senators. While he stressed that nothing has been finalized, Thune said “the direction I think a lot of our members want to move” is to keep some of the Obamacare taxes in place and use the revenue in other parts of the bill.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, made the case to fellow Republicans during their weekly luncheon that they should embrace a radical change to the ACA that would allow companies to offer minimalist plans on the private insurance market that don’t meet current coverage requirements. The presentation highlights the party’s ongoing struggle to devise a health care plan that can satisfy a broad enough swath of lawmakers.
Cruz and other conservatives are trying to steer the bill to the right even as GOP leaders are considering changes — such as preserving a tax on wealthy Americans’ investment income for several years — aimed at enlisting the support of centrists.