Obama tax hikes may help pass Repub­li­can health bill

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY ALAN FRAM AND ERICA WERNER Associated Press

Washington — Se­nate Repub­li­can lead­ers con­sid­ered keep­ing one of for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s big tax in­creases on wealth­ier Amer­i­cans and us­ing the money to fat­ten pro­posed sub­si­dies for the poor in a bid Thurs­day to pla­cate mod­er­ate GOP law­mak­ers and sal­vage their strug­gling health care bill.

With a core pri­or­ity tot­ter­ing, top Repub­li­cans also as­sessed an amend­ment pushed by con­ser­va­tives to let in­sur­ers of­fer plans with low pre­mi­ums and scant ben­e­fits. To do so, a com­pany would also have to sell a pol­icy that abides by the con­sumer­friendly cov­er­age re­quire­ments in Obama’s 2010 statute, which the GOP is strug­gling to re­peal.

Both pro­pos­als were en­coun­ter­ing in­ter­nal Repub­li­can op­po­si­tion, and it was un­cer­tain ei­ther would sur­vive. But the ef­fort un­der­scored how Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., needed to mol­lify both wings of his di­vided party if he’s to res­cue one of his and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s fore­most cam­paign prom­ises.

By Fri­day, McCon­nell wants to add changes to the bill that would as­sure its pas- sage af­ter Congress’ July 4 re­cess. For him to pre­vail, no more than two of the 52 GOP sen­a­tors can op­pose the mea­sure.

But as sen­a­tors charged out the Capi­tol’s doors Thurs­day to be­gin their break, there were no overt in­di­ca­tions that GOP lead­ers had re­solved their prob­lems.

“We’re kind of at a stale­mate right now, I’d say,” said Sen. Shel­ley Moore Capito, RW.Va., who with Ohio GOP Sen. Robert Port­man and oth­ers want to fore­stall re­duc­tions the mea­sure would make in Med­i­caid.

The Med­i­caid pro­gram for low-in­come and dis­abled peo­ple has grown dra­mat­i­cally in their states and oth­ers, but the Repub­li­can bill would cut it, with re­duc­tions grow­ing over time.

The Se­nate bill would re­peal most of the tax boosts Obama levied, around $700 bil­lion over the com­ing decade. They were aimed largely at high earn­ers and the med­i­cal in­dus­try and helped fi­nance his ex­pan­sion of cov­er­age to about 20 mil­lion peo­ple.

Un­der a pro­posal by Sen. Bob Corker, RTenn., the bill would re­tain Obama’s 3.8 per­cent tax in­crease on in­vest­ments by higher earn­ers. Keep­ing that in­crease would save $172 bil­lion over 10 years, and mod­er­ates want to use it to make the health care sub- si­dies their bill would pro­vide more gen­er­ous.

Democrats say the GOP bill is mostly a tax cut for the rich. The non­par­ti­san Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice has said the Se­nate mea­sure would raise out-of-pocket health care costs for many low earn­ers while pro­duc­ing 22 mil­lion more unin­sured peo­ple by 2026.

Corker said cut­ting up­per-in­come taxes and in­creas­ing health care costs for the poor “is not an equa­tion that works.”

“Ob­vi­ously we’d like to get rid of all” of Obama’s tax boosts, said No. 3 Se­nate GOP leader John Thune of South Dakota. “But if it takes some­thing like that to get our mem­bers on board to move this process for­ward, I think we have to con­sider that.”

Con­ser­va­tives said they op­posed the idea, along with the chair­men of Congress’ two tax-writ­ing com­mit­tees: Se­nate Fi­nance chair­man Or­rin Hatch, R-Utah, and House Ways and Means chair­man Kevin Brady, R-Texas.

Obama’s health law en­acted an ad­di­tional 3.8 per­cent tax on in­vest­ment in­come for mar­ried cou­ples mak­ing more than $250,000 a year and in­di­vid­u­als mak­ing more than $125,000.

An­drew Harnik / AP

A group of pro­test­ers rally against the Se­nate Repub­li­can health care bill Wed­nes­day on the East Front of the Capi­tol Build­ing in Washington.

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