Posts Tagged ‘Chuck Schumer’

Obama health mandate now target of GOP in big tax bil

November 15, 2017

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama health care law’s requirement that Americans get insurance coverage is now pinned as a target of Republican lawmakers, as they look to end the individual mandate to help pay for deep cuts in their tax legislation.

Senate Republicans showed Tuesday they’re intent on scrapping the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandate, and the idea was endorsed by scores of GOP lawmakers in the House.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Finance Committee, confirmed late Tuesday he was revising the bill to include repeal of the insurance mandate “to help provide additional relief to low- and middle-income families.”

The surprise renewal of the failed effort to eliminate the health care law’s mandate came a day after President Donald Trump renewed pressure on Republican lawmakers to include the repeal in their sweeping legislation to revamp the tax system. It carries high political stakes for Trump, who lacks a major legislative achievement after nearly 10 months in office.

The move by Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee upended the debate over the tax measure just as it was inching closer to passage following months of fine-tuning and compromise. It turned the debate into an angry partisan referendum on health care and President Barack Obama’s signature law, the Affordable Care Act.

House Speaker Paul Ryan joined a growing chorus of Washington Republicans calling upon Roy Moore to drop out of his embattled race for the U.S. Senate. Ryan also projected confidence about delivering on an overhaul of the nation’s tax code. (Nov. 14)

The Finance panel digs into a third day of work on the Senate tax bill on Wednesday. The completed House tax bill, pointed toward a vote in that chamber Thursday, does not currently include repeal of the health insurance mandate. Trump plans an in-person appeal to House Republicans before the vote.

Promoted as needed relief for the middle class, the House and Senate tax overhaul bills would deeply cut corporate rates, 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 deem passage of the first major tax overhaul in 30 years as imperative for the GOP to preserve its majorities in next year’s elections.

Republican efforts to dismantle the health care law collapsed this past summer as moderate Republicans joined with Democrats in rejecting the repeal — a bitter disappointment for Trump, who lashed out at the Senate GOP for failing. Adding the repeal of the mandate to the tax measure would combine two of Trump’s legislative priorities.

Beyond Trump’s prodding, the repeal move was dictated by the Republicans’ need to find revenue sources for the massive tax-cut bill, which calls for steep reductions in the corporate tax rate and elimination of some popular tax breaks.

The “Obamacare” mandate requires most people to buy health insurance coverage or face a fine. Without being forced to get coverage, fewer people would sign up for Medicaid or buy federally subsidized private insurance. Eliminating the mandate in the tax legislation would save an estimated $338 billion over a decade, which could be used to help pay for the deep cuts.

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

It “will cause millions to lose their health care,” Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the senior Democrat on the Finance Committee.

Feeling ambushed without advance notice, minority Democrats warned that with fewer healthy people in the insurance risk pool, the price of premiums would rise.

“Rather than learning the lessons from their failure to repeal health care, Republicans are doubling down on the same partisan strategy that would throw our health care system into chaos,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. “If the American people weren’t already outraged by this bill, injecting health care into it will certainly do the trick.”

To win over moderate Senate Republicans to the tax legislation, the Senate may take up at the same time a bipartisan compromise to shore up health care subsidies, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., indicated Tuesday. Thune is a member of the Finance panel.

Hatch’s revised version of the tax bill would double the child tax credit to $2,000 from the current $1,000 — a change that presidential daughter Ivanka Trump has pushed for. The credit would rise to $1,600 under the House bill.

Also, Hatch’s revision makes slight reductions in individual tax rates for three moderate income brackets, numbers three, four and five of a total seven. The rates are reduced from the original Senate bill and the current system. The new rates are 10, 12, 22.5, 25, 32.5, 35 and 38.5 percent. The House bill shrinks the current seven brackets to four: 12, 25, 35 and 39.6 percent.

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Associated Press writers Kevin Freking, Andrew Taylor and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington contributed to this report.

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House GOP quietly revises tax bill to tax income at higher rates over time

November 6, 2017

The Associated Press

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House Republicans on Friday quietly made changes to their far-reaching tax overhaul: Now its tax cuts would be less generous for many Americans.

A day after the GOP unveiled its plan promising middle-class relief, the House’s top tax-writer, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, released a revised version of the bill that would impose a new, lower-inflation “chained CPI” adjustment for tax brackets immediately instead of in 2023. That means more income would be taxed at higher rates over time — and less generous tax cuts for individuals and families.

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House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady

The change, posted on the website of the Ways and Means Committee, reduces the value of the tax cuts for ordinary Americans by $89 billion over 10 years compared with the legislation released with fanfare Thursday.

As wages rise, middle-class taxpayers would have more of their income taxed at the 25 percent rate instead of at 12 percent, for instance.

“The bill’s like a dead fish: The more it hangs out in the sunlight, the stinkier it gets,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer pronounced after word of Brady’s change. “The more people learn about this bill, the less they’re going to like it.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi blasted the tax bill unveiled by House Republicans as “a terrible assault on opportunity for the middle class” and said her GOP colleagues are “taking American people for suckers.”

The change to the plan frees up money for Brady, the committee’s chairman, to use to address concerns by lawmakers when changing the bill further next week. The Ways and Means panel begins work on Monday, a final bill-writing process expected to take four days.

Brady on Friday called it “a challenge of a lifetime legislatively.”

President Trump and the Republicans are driving to push through a major tax-cutting bill this year to secure a legislative accomplishment, following their stinging failure to overturn and replace the Obama health care law. The Republicans, facing increasing pressure to produce a marquee legislative victory before next year’s elections, are promoting their tax plan as a spark for economic growth and a boon to the stressed middle class.

Brady, in a statement releasing the revised bill, stressed “pro-growth tax reform that will deliver more jobs, fairer taxes, and bigger paychecks for people across our country.”

While Mr. Trump and House Republican leaders stand united behind the plan, rank-and-file GOP lawmakers are divided and complaining about its potential blow to homeowners and the loss of a prized deduction that especially hits high-tax states.

And Mr. Trump is pressuring Republicans to repeal a health-care law penalty in the tax rewrite, a step that Brady indicated is politically problematic. Some of the GOP lawmakers agree.

Brady said Friday the president had spoken to him twice by phone and once in person, imploring him to scrap the so-called individual mandate that requires Americans to obtain health insurance or face a penalty.

“The president feels quite strongly about including this at some step,” Brady said in an interview with Politico.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that repealing the individual mandate would save $416 billion over a decade. That’s because without it, fewer people would enroll in Medicaid or buy federally subsidized coverage on insurance exchanges. The money represents a tempting revenue source for GOP tax writers whose plan for extensive tax cuts would add an estimated $1.5 trillion to the nation’s debt over 10 years.

An influential conservative lawmaker, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, said Friday that repealing the health care mandate needs to be part of the tax bill. He said he believes a majority of Republicans in the House share that view.

Trump even tweeted on Wednesday: “Wouldn’t it be great to Repeal the very unfair and unpopular Individual Mandate in ObamaCare and use those savings for further Tax Cuts for the Middle Class.”

But Brady pointed out the Senate has been unable to muster enough votes for any health care legislation. “There are pros and cons to this. Importing health care into a tax reform debate does have consequences,” he said.

And Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, said, “I think the attitude is let’s not mix up health care with this.”

Republicans have set an ambitious timetable for the first revamp of the nation’s tax code in three decades, one that would touch virtually all Americans and the economy’s every corner, mingling sharply lower rates for corporations and reduced personal taxes for many with fewer deductions for home-buyers and families with steep medical bills.

Under the plan, the bulk of the tax cuts go to businesses instead of individuals, according to a budget watchdog group. The Washington-based Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says corporations and other businesses get tax cuts of about $1 trillion, with the rest for individuals and people inheriting multimillion-dollar estates.

Democrats kept up their rhetorical battle against the plan, which was crafted by White House officials and Republican leaders in Congress in closed-door sessions over much of this year.

“Get real. Don’t tell the middle class this is for them,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi admonished Republicans as she spoke in a press conference. “You’ve set a banquet for the wealthy and corporate America and thrown a few crumbs” to the middle class. “It’s really making suckers of the American people.”

The tax plan also would increase the national debt, a problem for some Republicans.

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Parties’ Campaign Chiefs Agree: GOP Tax Bill Key to 2018 Results

November 2, 2017
Sens. Cory Gardner and Chris Van Hollen discussed the tax rollout at a WSJ breakfast on Thursday.Photo: Ralph Alswang for The Wall Street Journal
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WASHINGTON – One year before the midterm elections, the two parties’ campaign chiefs came together Thursday in a rare public bout and agreed on one thing: The fate of the GOP tax bill could make or break both parties political destiny in 2018.

The comments came in a public discussion, hosted by The Wall Street Journal, between Cory Gardner of Colorado, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Democratic Senate Campaign Committee Chair Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, facing off for the first time. Also for the first time, Steve Stivers, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, faced off with Ben Ray Luján, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Mr. Stivers and Mr. Gardner acknowledged the pressure their party was under to pass the tax bill, after failing to deliver on repealing the Affordable Care Act.

WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib and Janet Hook discuss the 2018 midterms with Sens. Gardner and Van Hollen.Photo: Ralph Alswang for The Wall Street Journal

“We’ve got to show folks that we’ve got to get it done and I think we will,” said Mr. Stivers, of Ohio. The bill will fare better than the GOP’s failed attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act because party lawmakers “have fairly consistent views on taxes.”

The Democratic panelists  hammered the emerging plan, saying it doesn’t do enough to help the middle class, but Mr. Van Hollen left open the possibility that some lawmakers in tough reelection fights could vote for it in the end.

Mr. Luján, who is leading the Democrats’ efforts to retake control of the House in 2018, criticized Republicans for writing the bill behind closed doors. “The only people that they’re not having conversations with is the American people,” the New Mexico lawmaker said of Republicans.

Surveying a political landscape that seems to change by the day, Mr. Van Hollen cited previously unforseen political opportunities in red states like Texas and Tennessee. Mr. Gardner shrugged off concerns about former White House aide Steve Bannon’s rogue efforts to support challengers for GOP incumbents. Mr. Stivers promised to use the liberal reputation of Nancy Pelosi against Democrats in swing districts. And Mr. Lujan countered by saying Democrats energized after the 2016 election losses could make 80 seats competitive.

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, left, and Rep. Steve Stivers talk about campaign efforts already kicking into high gear at the WSJ event on Nov. 2, 2017Photo: Ralph Alswang for The Wall Street Journal

“You can’t wish a seat into play,” said Mr. Stivers, who sees 40 House seats as competitive. Democrats need 24 seats to win the majority.

During past periods when a president’s approval rating was below 50%, the weak numbers have often resulted in a double-digit loss for the president’s party in the midterm elections. President Trump’s approval rating currently sits at 38% — his lowest level since taking office, according to The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Sunday.  But to take the majority, House Democrats must win districts where Donald Trump won in 2016, and where it will be more difficult for candidates to campaign against the president.

The tumultuous political year has led to moderate Republican lawmakers announcing retirements in the House, and GOP Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona announcing they would not pursue re-election. Asked for where the opportunities were for Democrats, Mr. Van Hollen pointed to Arizona and Nevada, citing GOP Sen. Dean Heller’s low approval rating in the state.

Republicans, by contrast, sees an opportunity in the 10 states that Mr. Trump won in which Democrats are trying to retain Senate seats. Mr. Gardner, noting that the president won five of those states by double-digit margins, named Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia as particular targets. In all those states, he said, Democrats will find it hard to campaign against Mr. Trump regardless of his standing in polls nationally.

WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib and Joshua Jamerson discuss the 2018 midterms with Rep. Steve Stivers, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Photo: Ralph Alswang for The Wall Street Journal

In the Senate, Democrats must defend 25 lawmakers total in 2018, including the 10 in states that Mr. Trump won, some by double digits. Republicans see the states that Mr. Trump won as their best bet for increasing their 52-48 majority in the Senate. Republicans must defend eight seats, two of which are open.

Mr. Flake’s decision to not pursue re-election could help Republicans retain his seat, with either a conservative candidate aligned with President Trump or one a more moderate candidate who could pull in Democratic voters. Their nominee will likely face Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a young centrist, widely considered one of the party’s top recruits for 2018.

Mr. Van Hollen said the tighter-than-usual special election for a Senate seat in Alabama shows that Democrats could have more opportunities, in traditionally red states, such as Texas and Tennessee. In 2016, Mr. Trump beat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in Texas by nine points.

In Alabama, Republicans are supporting Roy Moore, an evangelical conservative who has made incendiary comments against Muslims and gay people. He was welcomed to the Capitol by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday, a move Mr. Van Hollen called “appalling.”

The person to expect to see in campaign ads against Democrats in 2018: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) who Mr. Stivers said polls lower than the president in swing districts.

“Nancy Pelosi will be speaker if Ben’s successful and I think the people need to understand who’s going to be in charge,” Mr. Stivers said, referring to his Democratic counterpart on stage. “I don’t think we’ll say or do anything that’s unfair.”

Mr. Luján fired back, asking Mr. Stivers “who polls lower?” than Ms. Pelosi. He then answered the question himself, saying House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) polls lower, according to his surveys.

In the recent WSJ poll, more people said they wanted to see Democrats than Republicans control Congress, 48% to 41%.

More

GOP Sticks With Big, Permanent Corporate Tax Cuts in House Bill

https://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2017/11/02/parties-campaign-chiefs-agree-gop-tax-bill-key-to-2018-results/

Trump Threatens Obamacare Chaos as He Cuts Off Insurer Subsidy — “Obamacare has proven itself to be a fatally flawed law.”

October 13, 2017

Bloomberg

By Zachary Tracer

 
  • Subsidies to help lower-income people to stop immediately
  • Health insurers have pushed Congress to appropriate funds
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Trump: Health Plan Will Solve Obamacare ‘Nightmare’

President Donald Trump’s administration took its most drastic step yet to roll back the Affordable Care Act on Thursday evening, cutting off a subsidy to insurers just hours after issuing an executive order designed to draw people away from the health law’s coverage markets.

The moves — which critics call deliberate attempts to sabotage the law — come just weeks before Americans will be able to start signing up for coverage for 2018. They follow other steps the Trump administration has taken, such as slashing advertising and outreach budgets meant to get people to sign up, as well as planning outages of the website where people can enroll.

Late Thursday, the administration said it would immediately stop paying what are known as cost-sharing reduction subsidies. The payments — which are the subject of a legal dispute — go to health insurers in the Affordable Care Act to help lower-income people with co-pays and other cost sharing. Without them, insurers have said they’ll dramatically raise premiums or pull out of the law’s state-based markets.

The White House said the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services both concluded that there is no appropriation for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare.

“The bailout of insurance companies through these unlawful payments is yet another example of how the previous administration abused taxpayer dollars and skirted the law to prop up a broken system,” the White House said in the statement.

Immediate Halt

The payments will stop immediately, with no transition period, Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. They next payments were due next week.

“Congress has not appropriated money for CSRs, and we will discontinue these payments immediately,” the department said.

Donald Trump signs an executive order on health care in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 12.

Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg

The administrative actions come after Republicans in Congress tried and failed to repeal the law. Trump has repeatedly threatened to let Obamacare wither, but the most recent actions go beyond that, said Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the top ranking Democrats in Congress.

“Instead of working to lower health costs for Americans, it seems President Trump will singlehandedly hike Americans’ health premiums. It is a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage,” the Democrats said in a statement.

House Speaker Paul Ryan backed the move.

“Obamacare has proven itself to be a fatally flawed law, and the House will continue to work with the Trump administration to provide the American people a better system,” Ryan said in a statement.

Premiums to Rise

Given the disagreements over the payments, and an ongoing lawsuit questioning their legality, many health insurers had dramatically raised the premiums they planned to charge for next year in anticipation of not getting the funds. The payments are made monthly, and have been estimated at $7 billion in total this year.

“Many, but not all, insurers assumed these payments would end and set 2018 premiums accordingly,” Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said by email. “Those that didn’t build this into their premiums may petition to adjust their rates or threaten to pull out of the marketplace. It seems like we’re in for a chaotic run up to the beginning of open enrollment.”

The moves are also a political risk for Trump and Republicans. An August poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 78 percent of those surveyed thought the administration should try and make the law work, while only 17 percent wanted to see it pushed toward failure.

Fight Will Continue

Health insurers have pushed Congress to appropriate the funds. Congressional action — potentially as part of a package of fixes a bipartisan group of senators have considered — would effectively end the risk of the president ending them unilaterally.

Kristine Grow, a spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, declined to comment.

What happens next isn’t clear. Any action to end the payments may face legal obstacles of its own, after seventeen states and the District of Columbia won the right in August to defend the payments in a court case. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Thursday night promised to do just that. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra also said his state was ready to sue.

“This summer, the courts granted our intervention to defend these vital subsidies and the quality, affordable health care they ensure for millions of families across the country,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Our coalition of states stands ready to sue if President Trump cuts them off.”

The subsidy decision follows Trump’s signing Thursday of an executive order that tells federal agencies to consider a number of steps that could erode many of the core tenets of Obamacare.

Executive Order

In the order, the president asked regulators to craft rules that would allow small businesses to band together to buy insurance across state lines, let insurers sell short-term plans curtailed under Obamacare, and permit workers to use funds from tax-advantaged accounts to pay for their own coverage.

The result of that action and others is likely to be higher premiums and fewer people covered. The executive order, in particular, will give people in the law’s markets several alternative forms of coverage. They will likely be cheaper, though not as comprehensive.

“It would essentially create a parallel regulatory structure within the individual and small group markets that is freed from the various consumer protections established,” Spencer Perlman, a policy analyst with Veda Partners, a Bethesda, Maryland-based advisory firm, said earlier Thursday. “The end result could be a death spiral for ACA-compliant plans.”

Trump’s actions signaled that the longer-term unraveling of Obamacare is a priority despite the setbacks on Capitol Hill this year.

“The policies outlined in the executive order are the beginning of the actions the administration will take to provide relief to people harmed by Obamacare,” said Andrew Bremberg, director of the administration’s domestic policy council, on a call with reporters earlier Thursday. “You should expect additional actions coming from the administration in months to come.”

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-13/trump-orders-an-end-to-key-obamacare-insurance-subsidies

Trump plans to stop ACA payments to insurers

October 13, 2017
BY LAURA SANTHANAM  October 12, 2017 at 11:13 PM EDT
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U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) applauds as U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order to make it easier for Americans to buy bare-bones health insurance plans and circumvent Obamacare rules at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Donald Trump plans to halt payments to insurers under the Obama-era health care law that he has been trying to unravel for months.

That’s according to two people familiar with the decision who sought anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The White House says in a statement that the Department of Health and Human Services has determined there is no appropriation for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers under the Obamacare law.

READ MORE: 8 million kids could lose health insurance if the CHIP program isn’t renewed. Here’s what that looks like in one state

Trump’s decision is expected to rattle already-unsteady insurance marketplaces. The president has previously threatened to end the payments, which help reduce health insurance copays and deductibles for people with modest incomes, but remain under a legal cloud.

The president’s action is likely to trigger a lawsuit from state attorneys general, who contend the subsidies to insurers are fully authorized by federal law, and the president’s position is reckless.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/trump-plans-stop-aca-payments-insurers/

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Trump to halt subsidies to health insurers

October 13, 2017

The Associated Press

Donald Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a brash move likely to roil insurance markets, President Donald Trump will “immediately” halt payments to insurers under the Obama-era health care law he has been trying to unravel for months.

The Health and Human Services department made the announcement in a statement late Thursday night. “We will discontinue these payments immediately,” said acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan and Medicare administrator Seema Verma.

In a separate statement, the White House said the government cannot legally continue to pay the so-called cost-sharing subsidies because they lack a formal authorization by Congress.

However, the administration had been making the payments from month to month, even as Trump threated to cut them off to force Democrats to negotiate over health care. The subsidies help lower copays and deductibles for people with modest incomes.

Halting the payments would trigger a spike in premiums for next year, unless Trump reverses course or Congress authorizes the money. The next payments are due around Oct. 20.

The top two Democrats in Congress sharply denounced the Trump plan in a joint statement.

“It is a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage leveled at working families and the middle class in every corner of America,” said House and Senate Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi of California and Chuck Schumer of New York. “Make no mistake about it, Trump will try to blame the Affordable Care Act, but this will fall on his back and he will pay the price for it.”

The president’s action is likely to trigger a lawsuit from state attorneys general, who contend the subsidies to insurers are fully authorized by federal law, and say the president’s position is reckless.

“We are prepared to sue,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “We’ve taken the Trump Administration to court before and won.”

Word of Trump’s plan came on a day when the president had also signed an executive order directing government agencies to design insurance plans that would offer lower premiums outside the requirements of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Frustrated over setbacks in Congress, Trump is wielding his executive powers to bring the “repeal and replace” debate to a head. He appears to be following through on his vow to punish Democrats and insurers after the failure of GOP health care legislation.

On Twitter, Trump has termed the payments to insurers a “bailout,” but it’s unclear if the president will get Democrats to negotiate by stopping payment.

Experts have warned that cutting off the money would lead to a double-digit spike in premiums, on top of increases insurers already planned for next year. That would deliver another blow to markets around the country already fragile from insurers exiting and costs rising. Insurers, hospitals, doctors’ groups, state officials and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have urged the administration to keep paying.

Leading GOP lawmakers have also called for continuing the payments to insurers, at least temporarily, so constituents maintain access to health insurance. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is working on such legislation with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.

The so-called “cost-sharing” subsidies defray copays and deductibles for people with low-to-modest incomes, and can reduce a deductible of $3,500 to a few hundred dollars. Assistance is available to consumers buying individual policies; people with employer coverage are unaffected by the dispute.

Nearly 3 in 5 HealthCare.gov customers qualify for help, an estimated 6 million people or more. The annual cost to the government is currently about $7 billion.

But the subsidies have been under a legal cloud because of a dispute over whether the Obama health care law properly approved them. Adding to the confusion, other parts of the Affordable Care Act clearly direct the government to reimburse the carriers.

For example, the ACA requires insurers to help low-income consumers with their copays and deductibles.

And the law also specifies that the government shall reimburse insurers for the cost-sharing assistance that they provide.

But there’s disagreement over whether the law properly provided a congressional “appropriation,” similar to an instruction to pay. The Constitution says the government shall not spend money unless Congress appropriates it.

House Republicans trying to thwart the ACA sued the Obama administration in federal court in Washington, arguing that the law lacked specific language appropriating the cost-sharing subsidies.

A district court judge agreed with House Republicans, and the case has been on hold before the U.S. appeals court in Washington. Up to this point the Trump administration continued making the monthly payments, as the Obama administration had done.

While the legal issue seems arcane, the impact on consumers would be real.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that premiums for a standard “silver” plan will increase by about 20 percent without the subsidies. Insurers can recover the cost-sharing money by raising premiums, since those are also subsidized by the ACA, and there’s no legal question about their appropriation.

Consumers who receive tax credits under the ACA to pay their premiums would be shielded from those premium increases.

But millions of others buy individual health care policies without any financial assistance from the government and could face prohibitive increases. Taxpayers would end up spending more to subsidize premiums.

Earlier Thursday, Trump had directed government agencies to design a legal framework for groups of employers to band together and offer health insurance plans across state lines, a longstanding goal for the president.

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Associated Press Writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.

Mitch McConnell: Democrats Must Forget About Trump and Join the GOP on Tax Reform

October 11, 2017

NBC News

The need for tax reform is loudly supported by Democrats — or at least it was.

by Mitch McConnell / 

A staff member adjusts the podium before a news conference where Republican lawmakers announced plans for tax reform on Sept. 27.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

For many Americans living on the coasts — or working in Silicon Valley or finance — the recession of 2008-2009 may seem little more than a distant memory. But for many other Americans, the last 10 years have been a lost decade, where the economy stumbled and opportunities declined. They suffered through stagnant paychecks, a lack of steady work and retirement that slipped further away by the day.

Maybe you are one of the millions of American workers who feel this way. You deserve better. You deserve an economy that lives up to its potential once again: with more jobs, fairer taxes and bigger paychecks. That’s why we are working so hard in Congress to pass tax reform.

Tax reform is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to replace an outdated tax system that holds our country back with one that actually works for you. It’s the single most important thing we can do today to get the economy moving again.

Just consider how the current tax code holds us back. First, it imposes tax rates that are too high. Second, it forces you to navigate a confusing web of schedules, deductions and penalties that many find impossible to comprehend — and the wealthy and well-connected find easy to exploit. Third, its incentives often make little sense — some even encourage companies to ship American jobs overseas. That’s wrong.

Here’s what we want to do about it: Take more money out of Washington’s pocket and put more in yours.

We think taxes should be lower, simpler and fairer for American workers like you. We want you to be able to keep more of your hard-earned money in your paycheck. Which is why we’re lowering tax rates, doubling the standard deduction and increasing the child tax credit.

 
Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, alongside Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, announces a tax reform bill on Sept. 27. Jim Lo Scalzo
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We want to promote fairness by eliminating loopholes for the wealthy while preserving core middle-class incentives that help American families buy a home or donate to charity. We also want to simplify your taxes so they are easier to understand and file.

In addition, we think taxes should be reformed to make it easier to keep jobs in America. We want American companies and the workers they employ to compete and win in today’s global economy. So we’re leveling the playing field against foreign companies. We want to bring jobs and profits back to the U.S.A., so we’re ending the perverse incentives that help keep them offshore. We want to unleash the potential of American enterprise to create more jobs and keep more of them here.

These are the goals of tax reform. They have traditionally been bipartisan. Here in the Senate, the need for tax reform is loudly supported by Democrats — or at least it was, until the last election.

Now, Democrats are under pressure from the left to oppose just about everything President Donald Trump touches — even ideas they themselves used to promote. This has sent Democrats scrambling for nearly any kind of excuse to oppose a tax-reform effort that fights corporate offshoring, eliminates loopholes for the wealthy and cuts middle-class taxes.

Tax reform is our once-in-a-generation opportunity. It’s the single most important thing we can do today to get the economy moving again.

So Democrats are in a tough spot. We understand. But the excuses we’ve heard to oppose tax reform are just wrong. Some Democrats have even tried to attack these commonsense proposals by predetermining the details of a final tax bill that has not yet been written. So they can pretend this effort is something it is not.

Let’s be clear: This effort is not about cutting taxes for some fat cat. It’s about helping American workers like you keep more of the money you earn in your pocket. It’s about helping companies drive the economy forward and invest in employees like you through wages and growth.

Tax reform has been a bipartisan effort before. It can — and should — be a bipartisan effort again. All it will take is for our Democratic friends to continue supporting the very ideas they supported until Trump came along.

I hope they will work with us in a serious way to get this crucial reform accomplished for our country — especially for the millions of Americans who’ve had a terrible go of it the last 10 years.

You deserve an economy that reaches for its true potential again. Passing tax reform is critical to getting us there. We in Congress will be working hard to get it done.

 https://www.nbcnews.com/think/politics/democrats-must-forget-about-trump-join-gop-tax-reform-ncna808976

Trump links border wall, green-card overhaul to DACA

October 9, 2017

By Jill Colvin

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump told congressional leaders on Sunday that his hard-line immigration priorities must be enacted in exchange for extending protection from deportation to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants, many of whom were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Trump’s list of demands included overhauling the country’s green-card system, a crackdown on unaccompanied minors entering the country, and building his promised wall along the southern border.

Many were policies Democrats have said explicitly are off the table and threaten to derail ongoing negotiations over legislation protecting young immigrants known as “Dreamers.” They had been given a reprieve from deportation and the ability to work legally in the country under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which Trump ended last month.

In a letter to House and Senate leaders released by the White House, Trump said the priorities were the product of a “a bottom-up review of all immigration policies” that he had ordered “to determine what legislative reforms are essential for America’s economic and national security.

“These findings outline reforms that must be included as part of any legislation addressing the status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients,” he wrote, adding that: “Without these reforms, illegal immigration and chain migration, which severely and unfairly burden American workers and taxpayers, will continue without end.”

Trump announced last month that he was ending the DACA program, but he gave Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix before recipients began to lose their status. Trump suggested at the time that he was eager for a deal, telling reporters, “I have a love for these people and hopefully now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly.”

He’d also tweeted that if Congress was unwilling to find a fix, he would “revisit this issue!” in six months.

Trump had previously said he wanted a DACA deal to include significant money for border security and eventual funding for his border wall. But the priorities released by the White House went far beyond that.

They included a complete overhaul of the green-card system that would limit family-based green cards to spouses and the minor children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents as part of an effort to end what is known as “chain migration.”

The White House also said it wants to boost fees at border crossings, hire 10,000 more immigration enforcement officers, make it easier to deport gang members and unaccompanied children, and overhaul the asylum system. And it wants new measures to crack down on “sanctuary cities,” which don’t share information with federal immigration authorities, among other proposals.

“These priorities are essential to mitigate the legal and economic consequences of any grants or status to DACA recipients,” White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told reporters in a Sunday evening conference call. “We’re asking that these reforms be included in any legislation concerning the status of DACA recipients.”

But it remained unclear whether the president considers each of the more than a dozen priorities to be non-negotiable or whether the White House sees them more as a starting point for negotiation with members of Congress. Officials on the call notably declined to say whether the president would veto legislation that did not include each and every one of them.

Trump last month appeared to reach at least the broad outlines of a DACA deal with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer in which he would agree to extend DACA protections in exchange for a package of border security measures.

While Trump made clear that he was not backing down on his wall demand, he and other administration officials said then that they would be comfortable with wall funding coming later, in a separate legislative vehicle.

In a joint statement Sunday night, Pelosi and Schumer said Trump’s list of proposals failed “to represent any attempt at compromise.”

“The Administration can’t be serious about compromise or helping the Dreamers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the Dreamers, to the immigrant community and to the vast majority of Americans” they wrote. “The list includes the wall, which was explicitly ruled out of the negotiations. If the President was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good faith effort to do so.”

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said the president’s “draconian and anti-immigrant principles” threatened to jeopardize “the bi-partisan, bi-cameral progress that has been made to pass a legislative solution that will protect nearly 800,000 Dreamers.”

“It is immoral for the President to use the lives of these young people as bargaining chips in his quest to impose his cruel, anti-immigrant and un-American agenda on our nation,” she added in a statement.

The demands could also divide Republicans, several of whom have introduced legislation providing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers in exchange for less drastic changes.

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s spokesman Doug Andres said the House immigration working group will review the list and consult with Republican members and the administration.

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Follow Colvin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/colvinj

Trump sends Congress immigration legislation priorities

October 9, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by W.G. Dunlop | The Trump administration tied its immigration priorities to Democrats’ desire to provide legal protection to some 690,000 immigrants known as “Dreamers” who came to the country illegally as children and were covered by an amnesty that was scrapped last month

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Donald Trump sent Congress his immigration legislation priorities Sunday, including building a controversial border wall, speeding up deportations and dramatically increasing the number of officials involved in enforcement.

The list, which also includes preventing immigrants from sponsoring their extended families to move to the US, drew immediate fire from Democratic leaders in Congress, who said it goes “far beyond what is reasonable.”

The administration tied its priorities to Democrats’ desire to provide legal protection to some 690,000 immigrants known as “Dreamers” who came to the country illegally as children and were covered by an amnesty by former president Barack Obama that Trump scrapped last month.

“These findings outline reforms that must be included as part of any legislation addressing the status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients,” Trump wrote in a letter to Congress accompanying the list, using the official name for the amnesty order.

The White House list is topped by “border security,” a category that includes building a massive wall on the southern US border that Trump promised would be paid for by Mexico, which has said it will not do so.

Trump also wants to dramatically ramp up the number of officials involved in enforcement, hiring an additional 10,000 Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers and 1,000 attorneys, 370 immigration judges and 300 federal prosecutors.

And he hopes to prevent immigrants from sponsoring extended family members to move to the US, limiting such green cards to spouses and children, as well as to close “loopholes” that prevent the deportation of children who enter the country illegally.

The list includes financially targeting “sanctuary cities” that have resisted the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on illegal immigrants.

– Criticism from Democrats –

“The administration proposes blocking sanctuary cities from receiving certain grants or cooperative agreements administered or awarded by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security,” it said.

Other proposals include cracking down on people who overstay visas, restricting asylum and expanding criteria that would make someone inadmissible to the US.

Trump’s list was criticized by Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the respective Democratic leaders in the Senate and House.

“This proposal fails to represent any attempt at compromise,” the legislators said in a joint statement.

“The list includes the wall, which was explicitly ruled out of the negotiations. If the president was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good faith effort to do so.”

The president has previously insisted the wall will go ahead and that he wants “massive border security” in exchange for a deal on DACA protections.

Trump has made toughening immigration regulations a central part of his first year in office, also issuing several versions of a controversial travel ban that has been criticized for targeting Muslim-majority countries and subject to numerous legal challenges.

The latest version, which was unveiled last month, bans citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and Yemen from entering the US.

Also suspended are certain Venezuelan government officials and their families, due to what the US called poor security and a lack of cooperation with American authorities.

by W.G. Dunlop

Trump says he called Schumer on health care — Even a temporary deal would be good

October 8, 2017