Posts Tagged ‘Freedom Caucus’

The 30 Republicans Holding Up Tax Reform

September 14, 2017

The Freedom Caucus threatens to side with Democrats and block the GOP majority.

By Karl Rove
The Wall Street Journal
Sept. 13, 2017 6:53 p.m. ET

No matter how persuasive President Trump is, it’s unlikely he can round up enough Democrats to get 60 votes in the Senate for tax reform. That means Republicans will need to use the Senate’s reconciliation process, which avoids the filibuster, to pass their plan with 51 votes. But first the House and Senate must pass a budget resolution—and soon.

A budget resolution sets spending levels and authorizes congressional committees to prepare bills fulfilling the blueprint. With the reconciliation plan in mind, this year’s resolution would set the size of the tax reform and then instruct the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to flesh out the provisions.

Gaining agreement on a budget resolution is always tough. No more than a handful of lawmakers from the opposition party ever vote for the majority’s resolution. It helps that Republicans control both the House and Senate, but the GOP must still resolve its internal philosophical disagreements.

House Republicans tend to insist on resolutions that balance the budget within 10 years. This means resolutions that pledge to slow substantially the growth of entitlement spending. Such promises are rarely fulfilled. But putting them in the budget blueprint fuels Democratic ads claiming Republicans will throw grandma off the cliff and deprive poor children of free school lunches. Knowing this, Senate Republicans tend to want resolutions that reach balance after 10 years. Another GOP tension is between defense hawks, who want increased military spending, and deficit hawks, who want all spending restrained or cut.

Then there are nerdy but important technical arguments, starting with how the resolution’s spending baseline is calculated. Beginning with a baseline of “current law” means assuming that a tax break currently authorized for only a year or two will actually expire instead of being reauthorized. But Congress renews some tax breaks annually and probably will keep doing so through the next decade. To account for this, many in the GOP want to calculate the baseline under “current policy.”

It sounds technical, but it quickly becomes political. Democrats demand “current law” because a higher baseline would make tax reform appear to raise the deficit more than it actually would. On the other hand a lower baseline would give tax reform more wiggle room: One GOP budget expert tells me that “current policy” would provide, on paper, $450 billion that could be used to lower rates and make the tax code simpler and fairer.

Dynamic scoring is another geeky fight. A tax reform that generates economic growth will offset some of the government revenue lost from cutting rates. Republicans want their bill evaluated with dynamic scoring because it takes this effect into account and makes reform more attractive. Democrats oppose it for the same reason.

Still, given time and leadership—both on Capitol Hill and from the White House—Republicans could cobble together a budget resolution setting up a strong tax reform, which in turn would juice the economy and redeem the GOP in the midterms.

The biggest obstacle is the House Freedom Caucus. This group of just over 30 Republican congressmen has already slowed up the process by threatening to vote with Democrats against the GOP budget resolution unless they can see and approve, in advance, every major provision of the tax-reform bill. The Freedom Caucus tried in late July to block the House Budget Committee’s passage of a resolution unless the border-adjustment tax was taken off the table—which it then was. Now the Freedom Caucus’s members say they’ll flake on the budget resolution if tax reform includes full, immediate expensing of business investment. But if that’s agreed to, they’ll have more demands.

These lawmakers say they want Congress to operate in “regular order,” with committees grinding away to write legislation instead of leadership handing it down. This is hypocritical bunk. What they want is for their caucus to dictate the details of tax bills to the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the Republican majorities on both sides of Capitol Hill. Their approach is to make demands while threatening to join Nancy Pelosi in opposing the budget resolution unless they get their way.

If the Freedom Caucus acts on its threat, the budget resolution could be voted down, making tax reform impossible. No doubt, following their M.O., the group’s members would then blame the GOP leadership. Even if the resolution passes, the Freedom Caucus’s shenanigans may delay tax reform until 2018. These lawmakers are demonstrating once again that the freedom they most prize is freedom from the responsibility of governing.

Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is the author of “The Triumph of William McKinley ” (Simon & Schuster, 2015).

Appeared in the September 14, 2017, print edition.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-30-republicans-holding-up-tax-reform-1505343197

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Is The Republican Party Committing Suicide?

August 27, 2017

By Brent Bozell — For Breitbart

The Grand Old Party is about to commit suicide.

All this talk about Trump this, and Trump that, masks a far bigger political controversy. The Republican Party leadership in Washington, D.C., has fundamentally betrayed its constituents and they are about to learn that they’ve been double-crossed — for years.

Every Republican candidate’s stock speech sounds the same, the thunderous roar about a government out of control, federal spending out of control (insert charts and graphs and why, if you stack hundred dollar bills, they will reach the edge of the universe), federal taxes out of control (insert comparisons to socialist countries), the federal bureaucracy out of control (insert metaphors about chains, yokes, and the like), the family shattered with federal funding of abortion a crime against humanity (watch for it — there! The heart-wrenching sob), and our military is emasculated.

Two more items were added to the menu, courtesy of Obama. Obamacare Will Be Repealed! and Illegal Immigration Will Not Stand!

In 2009, the Democrats controlled everything, partly due to the Republicans’ cowardice on Capitol Hill, and in part because of some of the most inept candidates and campaigns America has seen in years. The Obama folks could have played it safe but went for socialist gold, using the power of the legislative and the executive branches (and later the judiciary, thank you Justice Roberts) to advance their agenda.

That included federal spending on a level unmatched in human history resulting ultimately in a $19 trillion in debt we simply cannot pay, and with so many tens of trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities that “infinity” is not far behind. One seventh of the economy was confiscated by the federal government with the passage of Obamacare. Our national borders were declared open and discussions over our national sovereignty closed. And to top it off, the Democrats all but declared themselves above the law.

The GOP harrumphed that this would not stand, by God! If only… if only America would vote them into the majority.

In 2009, the Tea Party was born. The Grand Old Party was rejuvenated. Happy days were here again.

Just one year later, the Republicans captured the House, and with that, the power of the purse. They now had the authority to stop the insane spending on so many obnoxious and wholly unnecessary ventures. They could end Obamacare simply by not funding it.

Instead, under the “leadership” of John Boehner, it did absolutely nothing. Why, if only we had the Senate! Then we could take on the President!

So in 2014, after spending hundreds of millions of campaign dollars running hundreds of thousands of television and radio ads pledging to end illegal immigration while repealing Obamacare “root and branch” (author: Mitch McConnell), they were given control of the Senate.

And within a month McConnell re-authorized both, along with every single other thing Harry Reid and Obama wanted for yet another year.

But that’s because we can’t do what we promised until we have the Presidency! The excuse was as predictable as summer heat in the Sahara.

In 2016, they were given that too.

They were given everything.

In January of this year, they formally controlled both houses of Congress and the executive branch. Every single thing they’d ever promised was now possible.

They now had the power to enact every single spending cut they’d ever solemnly pledged. All those wasteful programs designed to fill the liberal sandbox — PBS, NPR, Planned Parenthood, NEH and the rest of the alphabet soup; all the hundreds of billions of dollars in corporate welfare to multi-billion-dollar corporations; all of the hundreds of billions of dollars directed toward leftist social engineering — poof! All of it could come to an end with a stroke of a pen.

They now had the power to restore fiscal tax sanity too. Remember the flat tax? The fair tax? Slashing the highest corporate taxes in the world? Giving you a tax break? All of it could be done with a snap of the fingers.

Repeal Obamacare? Check. End illegal immigration? Check. Build the wall? Check.

Crush the Deep State? Done, by God, done!

There was not a damn thing the Democrats could do to stop them from draining the swamp.

Except the Republican leadership didn’t mean it. With the exception of the Freedom Caucus in the House, and literally a handful in the Senate, the rank-and-file didn’t either. Not one word of it.

The opportunity arose for the vote to repeal Obamacare, and after huffing and puffing, and huffing and puffing some more, the dust settled and socialized health care remains the law of the land, perhaps permanently.

The opportunity arose for tax reform, to enact the cuts America desperately needs. It was never a matter of if, it was a matter of how much. It is now mid-August and nothing, absolutely nothing has been accomplished — even attempted!

And now we face the final test: the debt ceiling. Will we or won’t we stop the spending madness? Will the Republicans enact the cuts they’ve promised, or will they now be the ones to kick the can, piling evermore trillions of dollars of debt on their own grandchildren?

By every indication that’s precisely what they plan to do. The signal has come from President Trump, from Speaker Ryan, and from Majority Leader McConnell. The debt ceiling will be raised and no fiscal sanity will be restored.

There is no difference between Republicans and Democrats. Put them together. They are the swamp.

Just as Republicans have the power to enact the agenda they’ve pledged in toto, so too do they now own the federal government, in toto. It’s no longer Obamacare. It’s GOPcare. It’s no longer crazy liberal Democratic spending. It’s crazy liberal Republican spending. It’s no longer socialist Democratic Party taxation, it’s socialist Republican Party taxation. All the legislation authorizing all these programs, all the graft, all the waste, all the obscenity, all the immorality, and where Planned Parenthood is concerned, all the killing — all of it is now formally authored by the Republican Party.

Come the Congressional elections next year, and the presidential election in 2020, the Grand Old Party will once again bellow its hallowed promises. But this time it won’t work. This time there will be no straw men to blame. This time their voters will know those hallowed promises are not even hollow promises. They are lies.

These voters are tasting betrayal. They will not vote to swallow more vomit.

We are watching the GOP systematically committing suicide.

Brent Bozell is the Chairman of ForAmerica, a national grassroots organization whose mission is to use social media to reinvigorate the public with the principles of American exceptionalism: freedom, prosperity, and virtue. ForAmerica has over 9 million members and is a non-profit 501(c)4. www.ForAmerica.org

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/08/27/exclusive-brent-bozell-the-slow-death-of-the-republican-party/

Republicans Face Looming Deadline on Health Law

August 20, 2017

Lawmakers will have 12 legislative days to decide whether to pass a bipartisan health bill

Republican lawmakers have to decide whether to shore up the health law or continue with efforts to roll it back.
Republican lawmakers have to decide whether to shore up the health law or continue with efforts to roll it back. PHOTO: MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
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Aug. 20, 2017 6:00 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON—A fast-approaching deadline for insurers to commit to selling health plans next year under the Affordable Care Act is pressuring Republican lawmakers to decide quickly whether to shore up the law and ease the path for insurers or continue efforts to roll it back.

Lawmakers returning to the Capitol from recess on Sept. 5 will have only 12 legislative days to decide whether to pass a bipartisan bill aimed at bolstering the ACA’s markets before insurers must commit to participating in the law’s exchanges in 2018. At the same time, a plan from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R., La.) that would largely topple most of the ACA is gaining traction among Republicans.

The looming deadline means that Republican lawmakers who have been bogged down for months on legislation to rework most of the ACA will have little time to decide whether to pivot and instead help bolster the current health law—or, possibly, to pursue both courses.

A bipartisan plan from Sens. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.), chairman of the Senate’s health committee, and Patty Murray (D., Wash.), the committee’s top Democrat, would need support from senators in both parties to clear a 60-vote threshold in the Senate. Hearings are slated for the first two weeks after Congress returns.

Their proposal would likely preserve for next year billions of dollars in federal payments to insurers known as cost-sharing reduction subsidies. Insurers have said that without the payments they likely would raise premiums or stop participating on the ACA’s individual markets. In return for guaranteeing the payments next year, any bill would likely give states more flexibility on ACA implementation, a change GOP lawmakers have sought.

The pressure on Republicans has intensified after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported last week that cutting off the subsidies could spur a 20% increase in 2018 premiums for some of the exchange’s most popular, midtier priced plans. President Donald Trump has threatened to halt the payments, which compensate insurers for lowering out-of-pocket costs for some low-income consumers.

During the congressional recess, support also has grown for the plan championed by Mr. Graham, which would give states the billions of dollars spent on the ACA to create their own health-care approaches. It also would end the requirement that most people purchase insurance or pay a penalty. Conservative lawmakers in both the House and Senate see it as the most viable path toward a repeal of the ACA.

The idea, backed also by GOP Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, could draw other Republicans away from any plan to bolster the ACA’s markets. A spokesman for Mr. Cassidy said the two bills could move on parallel tracks, with lawmakers choosing to shore up insurance markets in the short term while pursuing more sweeping changes to the law.

Some Republicans want legislation to shore up the markets and preserve the cost-sharing payments. Others, along with Mr. Trump, are eager to repeal most of the ACA. They see the subsidies as a bailout of insurers.

Concern is growing among governors, Democrats and insurance commissioners that any effort may come too late to help consumers in fragile ACA exchanges.

Though the Trump administration recently pushed back some key federal due dates, insurers are still supposed to file their 2018 premiums by Sept. 5. However, industry officials said, the more binding deadline may be Sept. 20, when states must submit completed rates to federal officials. Ultimately, insurers have until Sept. 27 to sign federal contracts to offer 2018 plans.

“There has to be a clear set of rules for 2018 for us to participate,” said David Holmberg, chief executive of Highmark Health. “We need answers. We need to know what the playing field is and who the refs are.”

Mr. Alexander said earlier this month in a statement that if Congress doesn’t act by Sept. 27, “millions of Americans with government subsidies…may find themselves with zero options for buying health insurance on the exchanges in 2018.”

If they pass a bill to stabilize the markets, Republican officials could face a backlash in the 2018 elections from conservative voters who feel GOP lawmakers reneged on their pledge to repeal the ACA.  Voters may also hold lawmakers accountable if nothing is done and premiums climb next year.

“The Republican base expects some results, and that’s not unreasonable of them,” said Doug Heye, a former deputy chief of staff to then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.).

Some conservative outside groups have given the bipartisan proposal to shore up the markets a chilly reception.

“They’re basically bailouts to prop up Obamacare,” said Andy Roth, vice president of government affairs at the conservative Club for Growth.

But there is some support for such a rescue mission in the House. Reps. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.), chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, and Tom MacArthur (R., N.J.), a centrist, have been collaborating on a stabilization package seen as a companion to Mr. Alexander’s work in the Senate. That plan would authorize the subsidy payments in 2018 and build more flexibility into ACA waivers. Mr. Meadows is also spearheading a parallel effort to force a vote on a clean repeal of the ACA on the House floor.

Write to Stephanie Armour at stephanie.armour@wsj.com and Michelle Hackman at Michelle.Hackman@wsj.com

Growth Can Solve the Debt Dilemma

April 26, 2017

Growth Can Solve the Debt Dilemma

Hitting a 3% target would result in an economy that’s nearly $13 trillion larger in 30 years.

Image may contain: one or more people, cloud, sky, ocean, water, outdoor and nature

The Wall Street Journal
April 25, 2017 6:53 p.m. ET

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The Congressional Budget Office’s latest report on the nation’s fiscal future is full of doom and gloom. The national debt will double in the next 30 years to 150% of gross domestic product—which is Greece territory. Interest payments may become the largest budget line, eclipsing national defense. Federal spending is expected to soar over 20 years from 22% of GDP to 28%. Never outside of wartime has Washington’s burden been so heavy on the economy.

But the report’s most troubling forecast, by far, is for decades of sluggish economic growth. The CBO projects that America will limp along at an average 1.9% annual growth over the next 30 years. This is a sharp downgrade from historical performance. Between 1974 and 2001, average growth was 3.3%. An extra percentage point makes a world of difference. If weak growth persists, there is almost no combination of plausible spending cuts and tax increases that will get Washington anywhere near a balanced budget.

But consider what happens to the CBO’s numbers assuming 3% annual growth. By 2040 the economy would expand not to $29.9 trillion, but to $38.3 trillion, according to an analysis by Research Affiliates, a California investment firm. That’s an additional output of $8.4 trillion—roughly the entire annual production today of every state west of the Mississippi River.

The Power of an Expanding EconomyFederal debt held by the public as ashare of GDP, 1930-2047, CBOprojection (assuming 1.9% growth)and adjusted projection (3%)THE WALL STREET JOURNALSource: Congressional Budget Office, Author1930-2016 actual,

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By 2047, the economy would grow to $47.1 trillion, almost $13 trillion more than the CBO’s baseline estimate. That would spin off new tax revenue to Washington of about $2.5 trillion each year.‎That money ought to be more than enough to pay all the bills and cover most of the unfunded costs of Social Security and Medicare. The old saying is right: The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.

Growth of 3% would stop the debt-to-GDP ratio from skyrocketing. Instead it would start to fall almost immediately, eventually to about 50%, because the economy would be so much larger. Congress and the White House ought to understand that what matters most for heading off a fiscal crisis is making sure that the economy grows faster than the government. No other debt-reduction policy—certainly not a tax increase—comes close to having the fiscal effect that sustained prosperity does.

A good example is the late 1990s, the only time in recent years that Washington balanced its budget. Surpluses were the result of good policy: A 16-year economic surge allowed revenues to catch up to expenditures. A booming stock market, aided by a cut in the capital-gains tax, brought in unexpected revenue. Spending was restrained under President Clinton and a Republican Congress.

Many blue-chip economists agree with the CBO that a growth rate of about 2% is the best that America can achieve. They believe that growth in productivity and the country’s workforce is too slow to recapture the glory days.

But the right policies can counter these trends. Productivity should surge with improvements in robotics, artificial intelligence and automation. Self-driving cars could cut transportation costs dramatically in coming years. Washington could facilitate this renaissance by giving companies an incentive to invest. The Tax Foundation predicted last year that the House Republican tax reform alone would raise wages by 8%, GDP by 9% and capital investment by 28%. If this is even close to being right, pass the tax cut now and stop obsessing about whether it is paid for within the short-term budget window.

The demographic problem is a greater challenge, with the baby boomers retiring. But according to my calculations at least seven million Americans in their prime working years—18 to 65—would be on the job today if labor-force participation had not dropped since 2000. A strong economy, paired with welfare reforms, could draw millions back to work. And immigration is America’s natural demographic safety valve. Letting in more legal immigrants—especially those with skills and special talents—may not happen under President Trump, but it can and should eventually.

This isn’t a call for budget complacency. Congress should cap spending and flatten the payout formulas for entitlement programs But there’s simply no way to fix the long-term fiscal problems with 1.9% growth, no matter how sharp the budget knife. What America needs is real and sustained growth.

Mr. Moore is an economic consultant at Freedom Works and a senior economic analyst at CNN.

Appeared in the Apr. 26, 2017, print edition.

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Mulvaney to Kudlow: ‘Economic Growthg Solves All Our Problems’

Image may contain: one or more people and suit
Director of OMB Mick Mulvaney (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

By Sandy Fitzgerald   |   Saturday, 01 Apr 2017 02:57 PM

Boosting economic growth will solve many problems in the United States, including the ongoing discussion about what to do about healthcare, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said in a radio interview Saturday.

“When I speak to groups, I remind them, if you are a 30-year-old professional, your entire career has been spent in a depressed economy,” Mulvaney told economist and Newsmax Finance insider and CNBC anchor Larry Kudlow on his national radio show. “We never saw three percent growth in a single year for the Obama administration, in the 90s, it was typical for us. There’s no reason we can’t get that back.”

The Congressional Budget office’s baseline for growth is at just around two percent or a bit lower, Kudlow noted. Mulvaney said he, Trump’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have gotten together to settle on a growth projection for the next 10 years, and while he did not name a number, as it has not officially been released, he could say that “it is higher than the CBO’s.” He also said it’s “depressing” that the CBO had set its growth rate low.

Kudlow, a former associate director of economics for the OMB, said that according to the CBO’s “rule of thumb,” if the economic growth rate goes from 2 percent to three percent, “that gives roughly a $3 trillion deficit reduction over 10 years. That would be “more than three times this nutty BAT ( Business Adjustable Tax).”

Even healthcare could be relieved through economic growth, said Mulvaney, as more people will have insurance coverage when they once again have jobs.

“When Hillary [Clinton] came out with Hillarycare in the 1990s, she proposed to cover millions of people,” said Mulvaney. “Bill succeeded in getting twice as many people covered through economic growth. Economic growth solves all of our problems.”

Mulvaney said business confidence is also up to 93 percent, compared to 56 percent last year, as more people are willing to take a chance now.

“That’s been gone for eight years,” said Mulvaney. “We’re trying to bring it back in the Trump administration.”

Kudlow also had a suggestion that the Trump administration tackle business, rather than individual tax reform first.

“We have four months before the August recess,” he said. “It will do the most benefits for middle income wage earners.”

Mulvaney said he agrees in principle, but 80 percent of corporations pay individual rather than corporate taxes.

Kudlow also brought up an article he’d seen stating funding increases for the military may be pulled back from Trump’s budget plans, which Mulavaney said would be news to him.

“We sent to the House not only the proposal for 2018, but also 2017 funding, [as the] government is only funded until the end of April,” he said. “We are asking for $30 billion, plus $3 billion for the border this year. No, if you’re hearing it’s not happening, I need to hear who you’re talking to.”

Also on Saturday, Kudlow commented that he does not think its “fair or good” for Trump to go after members of the House Freedom Caucus for their pushback on the American Health Care act, and Mulvaney, a former member, agreed the caucus is “not the enemy.”

“I pointed it out to the president this week,” said Mulvaney. “More than half the Freedom Caucus supports the health care bill.”

http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/mick-mulvaney-kudlow-economic-growth/2017/04/01/id/782009/

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From 2013

November 6, 2013

Can We Grow Our Way Out of Debt?

By  Veronique de Rugy and Jason J. Fichtner

The United States has both a debt and deficit problem, driven by years of overspending and unfunded promises made by politicians of both parties to pay for health care and retirement benefits to current and future seniors. The solution to the problem is relatively straightforward (although far from simple) and involves cutting spending; in particular, reforming programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act.

Recent commentary from Lawrence Summers, Ezra Klein, E. J. Dionne, and others, however, suggests that Washington’s focus on debt and deficit is misplaced because modest increases in economic growth can resolve the current fiscal dilemma. But economic growth alone cannot rescue the United States from the consequences of fiscal profligacy.

This week’s charts use data from the Congressional Budget Office to highlight the US fiscal position over the next ten years. These charts display projected outlays and revenues under the CBO baseline scenario and alternative baseline scenario, along with the revenues needed to eliminate the fiscal gap over the next decade and the average GDP growth rates needed to generate each revenue line.

The first chart displays outlays and revenues under the CBO baseline scenario. The CBO’s projected outlays are plotted along with expected revenues, which are calculated as the historical average of 18 percent of projected GDP. Keeping in mind that GDP projections are typically optimistic, the chart shows that the United States will maintain a considerable fiscal gap over the next ten years, even with a projected nominal average growth rate of 4.76 percent.

To close the fiscal gap solely through increased revenues from increased economic growth by 2023, the US economy will have to grow by 6.94 percent per year. This is considerably higher than the simple average growth rate of 3.9 percent a year from 2002 to 2012 that the US economy actually achieved, reaching a maximum of 6.7 percent in 2005 and plunging to a minimum of negative 2.1 percent during the depths of the recession in 2009.

The second chart, which displays the same information under the CBO’s alternative fiscal scenario, is even direr. Under these assumptions, the US economy would need to grow by 7.31 percent nominally each year to generate enough revenues to close the fiscal gap by 2023.

If the CBO’s projections are accurate, the US economy will need to exhibit unprecedented sustained nominal growth rates of 6.9 to 7.3 percent per year to eliminate our 10-year fiscal hole without fundamental entitlement and tax reform.

There is little reason to expect that the US economy will depart from recent historical trends and begin to grow at miracle rates of seven percent a year. Many of the policies that contribute to the debt and deficit will also hinder economic growth. Policymakers in the United States need to get serious about entitlement and tax reform, instead of just waiting for a miracle to rescue them from their fiscal woes.

https://www.mercatus.org/publication/can-we-grow-our-way-out-debt

Trump Shifts Back to Health Care

April 14, 2017

President says his plan to change the tax code will have to wait

President Donald Trump says he is focused on repealing the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

President Donald Trump says he is focused on repealing the 2010 Affordable Care Act. PHOTO: OLIVIER DOULIERY/PRESS POOL

WASHINGTON—After losing a fight to revamp the health-care system, President Donald Trump said last month he was prepared to put the setback behind him and move on to the next challenge, rewriting the tax code.

Three weeks later, he said he is determined to resurrect the health-care bill even if it means delaying the tax overhaul, telling The Wall Street Journal in an interview: “I want to get health care done…I think I will get it done.”

The tax overhaul, he said, would have to wait.

Mr. Trump’s revived push to fulfill a core campaign promise appears to be driven by three developments: First, a renewed confidence that he can still win enough votes to pass a bill; second, a belief that he needs the health-care savings to help pay for the tax bill and hit his economic growth promises; and third, a recognition that the tax-code overhaul isn’t near ready.

 

As a result, instead of cutting his health-care losses, he is insisting on pursuing an elusive deal to overturn the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and enact new health policy in its place.

The GOP president has long said he is loath to abandon a goal. In his book “The Art of the Deal,” he wrote that his approach is to “aim very high” and then “keep pushing and pushing and pushing to get what I’m after.”

He added: “Sometimes I settle for less than I sought, but in most cases I still end up with what I want.”

The abrupt shift caught some Capitol Hill Republicans off guard. They had been preparing to turn immediately to the tax legislation.

“We don’t get it. What a waste of time and political capital to return to the quagmire of health reform,” said Greg Valliere, chief global strategist at Horizon Investments, a North Carolina investment firm, in a client note Wednesday. Unlike taxes or infrastructure, he said the health bill is “clearly a no-win issue for the Republicans.”

The renewed focus on health care also raises the prospect of a second embarrassing defeat that would raise more questions about the new administration’s ability to shepherd complicated legislation through Congress.

But some allies said they were encouraged, not alarmed, by that pursuit now.

“Just because they didn’t achieve success at first on health-care legislation doesn’t mean it’s not going to get accomplished,” said Corey Lewandowski, Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager. “It’s going to get accomplished and they’re continuing to work on that. It’s a pledge he has made and will fulfill.”

In his interview with the Journal, Mr. Trump specifically mentioned a renewed confidence in the Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative Republicans he had just two weeks ago suggested targeting for defeat in next year’s midterm election.

“They want to do the right thing and they do like me and they do like their president,” he said.

Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a prominent House Republican and leader of the Freedom Caucus, said he had conversations with the president and his staff in which he set out a potential path to yes on a health-care deal for a number of conservative members and others.

He declined to discuss the specifics of that path, but praised the president’s past business history in making deals where no deals seemed to be in sight.

“He’s singularly focused on making sure he fulfills his campaign promises,” Mr. Meadows said.

While Mr. Trump has also suggested he is open to a deal with Democrats on health care, some White House officials believe the most direct route to passage of a bill involves persuading Republicans to go along. Democrats oppose the effort to repeal the law.

“Keeping it in the family is the easier path,” one White House aide said.

Another issue is at stake. Mr. Trump’s administration has projected a sharp increase in the nation’s projected growth rate, to around 3% over the coming decade from an average of 2% over the past decade due to policy changes.

The repeal and replacement of the health-care law is a significant factor in the improved growth outlook, said budget director Mick Mulvaney in an interview.

In addition, the tax plan Mr. Trump had expected to turn to may not be coming together as quickly as he had hoped. It will likely take months to write and advance a tax plan through Congress, making health care a more attractive engagement for a relatively speedy legislative victory.

“Tax reform’s going to be a very protracted process for a variety of reasons and I think the president desperately needs a very quick victory to get back on track,” said former Rep. Charles Boustany, a Louisiana Republican now at the lobbying firm Capitol Counsel.

The White House is still filling out its tax-policy team and reviewing its options, and meanwhile, it has offered little strategic direction to Congress. As a result, Republicans in the House and Senate haven’t yet reached consensus on key questions.

Among other things: The administration hasn’t decided whether to seek a tax cut, who might get a tax cut and whether to pursue the border adjustment feature at the center of House Republicans’ plans. When they do make those choices, it is going to be difficult, especially given the likely need to find almost all the votes for the tax bill inside the GOP, some officials said.

“Face it, when you change the tax code someone’s ox is going to get gored,” Mr. Mulvaney said.

What’s more, the two initiatives are interconnected, White House officials believe. Should a health-care overhaul pass, that would free up hundreds of billions of dollars that could be used to help pay for tax reductions brought about by the tax-code rewrite, they said.

“That’s the biggest driver in that decision,” a White House official said Thursday.

Under congressional rules, though, money from one bill isn’t deployed to another. What the health-care bill does is repeal taxes created in the Affordable Care Act, paid for by cutting spending on Medicaid.

Because the last week of April will be spent funding the government, Republicans have a window to work on health care without significantly delaying their tax agenda, which couldn’t advance publicly anyway during that time, said Kenneth Kies, a GOP tax lobbyist.

“There’s a window here to pull the health care thing back together and get it done without impeding tax reform,” he said.

Still, the prospects for that victory, however much Mr. Trump wants it, are mixed.

Current and former Republican House members believe that their colleagues could yet be inclined to get a bill voted through the lower chamber, if for no other reason than to tell constituents that they had done so. Whether Senate Republicans then can resolve their own, separate but equally divisive fights on health care is no certain matter.

“Taxes do not create the ideological, theological divides that health care does among Republicans,” Mr. Kies said.

Write to Louise Radnofsky at louise.radnofsky@wsj.com, Peter Nicholas at peter.nicholas@wsj.com and Richard Rubin at richard.rubin@wsj.com

Appeared in the Apr. 14, 2017, print edition as ‘Trump Shifts Back to Health Care.’

Mistakes, He’s Made a Few Too Many — Crisis reveals the character of men — Trump better be ready

March 31, 2017

Crisis will inevitably strike, so America needs stability and strength. Will Trump be ready?

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Republican disarray deepens as Trump attacks rebel conservatives

March 31, 2017
By Susan Cornwell and Amanda Becker | WASHINGTON
Reuters
Thu Mar 30, 2017 | 8:07pm EDT

U.S. President Donald Trump lashed out on Thursday at Republican conservatives who helped torpedo healthcare legislation he backed, escalating a feud within his party that jeopardizes the new administration’s legislative agenda.

Trump threatened to try to defeat members of the Freedom Caucus – a bloc of conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives – in next year’s congressional elections if they continued to defy him.

“The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!” Trump wrote on Twitter on Thursday morning.

He later singled out three Freedom Caucus members by name, U.S. Representatives Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan and Raul Labrador.

“If @RepMarkMeadows, @Jim_Jordan and @Raul_Labrador would get on board we would have both great healthcare and massive tax cuts & reform,” he said in one tweet.

“Where are @RepMarkMeadows, @Jim_Jordan and @Raul_Labrador?

#RepealANDReplace #Obamacare,” he asked in another.

House conservatives fought back.

Labrador, one of the founders of the Freedom Caucus, urged Trump in a tweet to “Remember who your real friends are. We’re trying to help you succeed.”

“Most people don’t take well to being bullied,” said Representative Justin Amash, who compared Trump’s approach to what a child does when he wants to “get his way.”

Trump’s deteriorating relationship with Republican House conservatives could make it harder for him to pass his legislative agenda, which includes rewriting the U.S. tax code, revisiting a healthcare overhaul and funding construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Trump, a New York businessman who touted his skills as a dealmaker in his bid for the White House, has repeatedly criticized Freedom Caucus members, blaming them for the defeat of legislation to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.

Freedom Caucus members said the bill did not go far enough to dismantle the 2010 Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.

Asked during a briefing whether Trump’s tweet about the Freedom Caucus was a “divide-and-conquer” strategy, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said: “No, it’s a math strategy, which is to get to 216,” the number of votes currently needed to pass House legislation.

The discord following the healthcare debacle was not limited to tensions between Trump and the Freedom Caucus. In recent days, the president has been out of sync with the two highest ranking Republicans in Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Trump and his aides have suggested reviving the push for a healthcare bill. While Ryan expressed openness to the idea, McConnell said he thought doing so would be futile.

But Ryan publicly disagreed with Trump when the president offered to work with Democrats on new healthcare legislation.

“I don’t want that to happen,” the speaker told CBS in an interview aired on Thursday.

‘NOT AN IDEAL POSITION’

More than healthcare legislation was at stake.

Republican lawmakers still await key details on what Trump’s priorities are in the monumental tax reform effort they want to launch.

Passing a budget for next year could also prove challenging. Trump and the Freedom Caucus want to dramatically shrink domestic programs. Moderate Republicans are aghast at proposals to cut popular programs that fund environmental cleanup and meals for senior citizens.

Most pressing is an April 28 deadline for approving new funding to keep the government running.

“The GOP (Republican) House is riven by factions that are quite ideological. Trump is not,” said University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato. “And let’s throw in the fact that Trump is unpopular and weak and has no Democratic support in Congress.

“Add all this up. Neither Trump nor congressional Republicans are in an ideal position to govern, and that’s an understatement,” Sabato said.

There are about three dozen members of the House Freedom Caucus, comprising about 15 percent of the 237 House Republicans. But their clout is larger, as Trump and Ryan cannot afford to lose too many House Republicans if they want to try to pass bills, like the Obamacare repeal, that attract zero Democratic support.

Dan Meyer, a legislative affairs chief to former Republican President George W. Bush, said that with the Freedom Caucus threatening Trump’s agenda, the White House either had to find a way to work with the conservatives, or tack to the left.

Some Republicans were so furious they were publicly saying things usually reserved for closed-door meetings.

Representative Chris Collins, a Trump ally and part of the “Tuesday Group” of moderate Republicans, told reporters his group was so angry with the Freedom Caucus that it would “never” meet with it. He accused its members of trying to shift blame for the healthcare failure to moderates.

SENATORS CRINGE

Senate Republicans expressed alarm and urged efforts at consensus.

Senator John McCain, who ran for president in 2008 and was defeated by Obama, said that if he were sitting in the White House, he would try to ease intraparty tensions rather than stoking them.

“But that’s the president,” said McCain who sometimes is at odds with Trump. He added this advice to Trump: “Sit down with them and say this is an emergency situation.”

Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican who served in the House from 2011 to 2014, said his former colleagues needed to quit arguing and come to a consensus “sooner rather than later.”

A senior House Republican aide distanced Ryan from Trump’s strategy of upbraiding conservatives.

“Ryan … is never going to intentionally alienate a large swath of his caucus,” said the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Publicly, Ryan said he understood Trump’s frustration.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Paul Ryan by Alex Wong, Getty Images

The speaker also said he was encouraging Republican lawmakers “to keep talking to one another.”

Republican Senator Bob Corker chided Ryan, however, for his views about courting Democrats on healthcare reform.

“We have come a long way in our country when the speaker of one party urges a president NOT to work with the other party to solve a problem,” Corker wrote on Twitter.

(Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, David Morgan, Roberta Rampton, Tim Ahmann, David Alexander and Steve Holland; Writing by Richard Cowan; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)

GOP Eyes Tax Overhaul — And Lessons From Health-Care Failure

March 25, 2017

By Sahil Kapur
March 25, 2017, 5:00 AM EDT
Bloomberg News

Moments after their hopes of undoing Obamacare unraveled, President Donald Trump and top Republicans said in unison that they’re moving on to another ambitious goal — overhauling the U.S. tax code.

“We will probably start going very, very strongly for the big tax cuts and tax reform,” Trump said to reporters Friday after the House bill was pulled from a scheduled floor vote. “That will be next.”

Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on March 24.

Photographer: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Bloomberg

House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters that Republicans will proceed with tax legislation — and said he met with Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin earlier on Friday to discuss taxes. Ryan sounded a note of caution: The health bill’s failure “does make tax reform more difficult,” he said, “but it doesn’t in any way make it impossible.”

Even before the health bill was withdrawn, two of the Trump administration’s top economic officials were shifting the conversation toward taxes. Mnuchin and White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney both said Friday that the White House is at work on a plan for both individual and corporate tax changes that’s coming soon.

Still, Ryan’s frank assessment of his party’s missed opportunity on health care Friday afternoon might just as well apply to tax legislation. “Doing big things is hard,” the speaker told reporters.



That sentiment reflected the mood of some anxious and frustrated Republicans, who were unable to muster enough votes in their first major test of governing in the Trump era. Several lawmakers said a complete overhaul of the tax code — which hasn’t been done in more than 30 years — would be tougher in the wake of the American Health Care Act’s defeat, as might the rest of their agenda.
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“We have to learn that we’re not just the party of no,” said Representative Steve Womack of Arkansas, a member of the House GOP’s whip team. “We have to learn how to govern.”

This month, Trump, a billionaire businessman who touted his expertise on tax-avoidance strategies during his campaign, had at times seemed wistful about letting tax issues take a back seat to health policy. On Monday, during a campaign-style rally in Louisville, he told the crowd: “We want a very big tax cut, but cannot do that until we keep our promise to repeal and replace the disaster known as Obamacare.”

Now, he and fellow Republicans will face heightened political pressure to deliver on taxes, and the president’s tactics may have to evolve, lawmakers said.

Presidential Lesson

“My guess is he has learned through this process that politics is different from business,” said Representative Bill Huizenga, a Michigan Republican, on Friday afternoon. Lawmakers answer to their constituents, not the president, he said. “There’s no ability to sit at a table and say ‘You’re fired.’”

One difference that’s already apparent: Lawmakers and administration officials seem inclined to take more time on tax legislation. The health-care bill was introduced, marked up, passed through committees and scheduled for a floor vote in just a few weeks. On taxes, House leaders have said they hope to pass a bill by August. Top Republican senators say it may take longer than that.

It’s unclear how Trump will propose to change tax laws. On Feb. 9, he promised a “phenomenal” tax plan in two or three weeks. That was six weeks ago.

His tax proposals changed over the course of his campaign — by Election Day, his plan had moved closer to the blueprint that Ryan and other House leaders prefer. Both plans would consolidate the number of individual income-tax rates to three from the existing seven; the top rate would drop to 33 percent from 39.6 percent currently.

‘Massive’ Cut

Trump has said he wants a “massive” tax cut for the middle class, but independent analyses of the House tax blueprint have concluded that it would benefit high-earners far more.

On corporate taxes, Trump and Ryan have yet to forge an agreement — particularly over the controversial issue of “border adjustments.” Ryan favors replacing the existing 35 percent corporate income tax with a 20 percent tax rate on companies’ domestic sales and imports. Exports would be excluded.

That border-adjusted approach — which opponents say would increase consumer prices — has divided Trump’s White House advisers, and the president hasn’t yet announced a position on it. Leading Republican senators have also expressed reservations. Supporters say higher prices on imported goods would be offset over time by a strengthening dollar.

For all the controversy surrounding it, though, the border-adjustment concept would raise an estimated $1.1 trillion over 10 years, giving Republican tax-cutters breathing space for reducing the corporate rate. Losing that provision will make it more difficult to achieve revenue-neutral tax legislation, complicating its chances in the Senate.

Lower Baseline

The failed health-care bill would have helped. It contained tax cuts of its own, about $999 billion worth over 10 years that would have been paid for by spending cuts — most of them in the federal Medicaid program that provides health care to the poor.  Republicans said the resulting lower revenue baseline would have made a revenue-neutral tax overhaul that much easier.

Balancing revenue and cuts in the tax bill would allow it to bypass rules requiring 60 votes in the Senate, where Republicans hold only 52 seats. Democrats — none of whom supported the GOP health-care bill in the House — will be similarly wary on tax legislation, said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. If the bill winds up benefiting the wealthy and not the middle-class, “it won’t fly either,” he said.

Democrats aren’t the only potential obstacles. As Ryan learned in the health-care setback, the divide between moderate House Republicans and the conservative Freedom Caucus proved impossible to bridge. “The moderates in our conference and the Freedom Caucus are truly at opposite ends of the issues,” said Representative Chris Collins of New York, a Trump ally. “And so you get one, you lose one, you get one, you lose one.”

Mnuchin on Friday didn’t address such concerns, as he predicted a smoother glide path for tax legislation. “Health care and tax reform are two different issues,” he said during an event sponsored by the media company Axios. “Health care is complicated, tax reform is a lot simpler in some ways.”

‘Not Discouraged’

Also upbeat was House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, the House’s top tax writer, who said Republicans intend to go “full steam ahead” on a tax overhaul, “and we’re gonna work with the administration to get this done.”

 

“Look, we fought hard for Obamacare repeal, we did fall short,” he said. “I’m not discouraged.”

Still, much depends on Trump’s leadership; his advisers signaled on Friday that he’ll take an active role. “When you see tax reform the first time, it will be the president’s plan and we’ll drive the debate on that,” Mulvaney said during an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

To drive it effectively, Trump will have to change his ways, said Brian Walsh, a former Senate Republican leadership aide.

“He needs to engage early, often, and consistently, and take his message directly to the American people on the issues he cares about,” said Walsh, who argued that Trump was unnecessarily distracted on the health-care issue. “If the President heeds the lessons from this debate that could bode well for tax reform, but if he does not we could well see a replay of this mess in the months ahead.”

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-03-25/gop-eyes-tax-overhaul-and-lessons-from-health-care-failure

Donald Trump Warns Reluctant House Republicans To Support Health care Bill Or Risk Losing Their Seats In 2018

March 21, 2017
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On Tuesday, Donald Trump held a closed-door meeting with House Republicans to drum up support for Trumpcare. He reportedly told the group that it’s make-or-break time, and if they don’t repeal and replace Obamacare, they could lose their seats in the 2018 election. The House is expected to vote on the bill this Thursday, and even if it passes, rougher waters may lie ahead in the Senate. Naturally, Trump doesn’t want to be held responsible for the GOP dropping the ball, so he’s using his negotiating skills.

Image may contain: one or more people and people standing

One of those tactics involves job security as mentioned above. As Republican town hall meetings have recently shown, crowds of people aren’t happy that Obamacare is getting the boot. Yet after the House GOP meeting, Trump told reporters that the bill has enough votes to pass:

“I think we’ll have a winner vote. We’re going to have a real winner. It was a great meeting, these are terrific people, and they want a tremendous healthcare plan, and that’s what we have but there are going to be adjustments made, but I think we’ll get the votes on Thursday.”

Republicans seem to be acutely aware of this pressure, as Senator Ted Cruz said if Trumpcare doesn’t get passed, the GOP will become a “laughingstock.” However, despite a hasty rollout and some gloomy analysis from the White House on how up to 26 million people will lose health coverage, House Speaker Paul Ryan remains optimistic. Trumpcare has been a passion project for Ryan, who dreamed of taking away people’s healthcare ever since he was a beer-chugging frat boy. Ryan may want to tap the keg, as his fantasy may soon become a reality.

(Via CNN & The Hill)

Source: http://uproxx.com/news/trump-gop-lose-seats-trumpcare/

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President Donald Trump holds a rally at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky, in March. Photo by Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

Trump Says GOP Must Pass Health Bill or Risk Losing Seats

By Anna Edney, Erik Wasson, and Billy House

Bloomberg

March 20, 2017, 10:56 PM EDT March 21, 2017, 1:09 PM EDT
  • Changes include optional work requirement for Medicaid
  • Trump to rally Republicans but Conservatives could block bill

Donald Trump warned House Republicans in a closed-door meeting Tuesday that many of them could lose their seats in the 2018 elections if they don’t pass their bill to replace Obamacare.

The president’s message came a day after GOP leaders made several changes to their measure aimed at wooing reluctant Republicans, including limits to Medicaid enrollment and an accelerated phaseout of some taxes.

“Support it!” Trump told lawmakers, according to Representative Walter Jones of North Carolina, who said he still opposes the measure. He said Trump’s remarks contained “nothing in detail, except politically it’s the right thing to do.” Trump didn’t take any questions from lawmakers.

Here’s What You Missed From President Trump Today

Asked on his way into a closed-door GOP meeting whether they had the votes, Trump said, “I think so.” And Republican leaders voiced optimism that the new changes would put them over the top when the bill reaches the House floor Thursday. A member of the House vote-counting team said they’re getting closer to the 216 votes they need for passage.

“The president just came here and knocked the ball out of the park,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Tuesday. “He knocked the cover off the ball.” He called the moment a “rendezvous with destiny” for Republicans.

‘Not Enough Votes’

But House conservatives said late Monday that they didn’t get the changes they were looking for and could block passage.

“Currently there are not enough votes to pass the legislation,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said Monday night after a raucous caucus meeting. The group, which has opposed earlier versions, didn’t take an official position on the changes, but a spokeswoman said a whip count by the group showed it could defeat the bill.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Trump singled out Meadows and joked that he’d “get there too,” according to Representative Fred Upton of Michigan. Upton added that Meadows, red-faced, stood up and acknowledged the president.

After the meeting, Meadows said he’s still a no. “If this was about the president, I would have changed a long time ago,” he said.

Conservative Republican Mo Brooks of Alabama also said he wasn’t impressed by Trump’s election threat.

“I think if we do vote for this we will lose the majority,” Brooks said after the meeting.

Deficit Problems

Another problem for conservatives could come when the Congressional Budget Office releases a new estimate on how the changes would affect the measure’s deficit savings.

That estimate, which leaders say will come before the Thursday floor vote, is expected to show significantly less deficit reduction than the $337 billion the CBO estimated would result from the original bill.

“I think this reduces total deficit reduction somewhere in the range of $150 billion, leaving less than $200 billion in deficit reduction,” Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget scholar Ed Lorenzen said.

The alterations are being proposed to help add Republican support for the bill, which is set to come up for a vote on the House floor Thursday, and House leaders sounded an optimistic note about the chance for passage. The changes would allow states to require people covered by Medicaid to work and block U.S. funds for any new efforts to expand the health program for the poor.

It isn’t clear yet whether the changes will persuade enough Republicans.

“I don’t know” if it will pass, said New York Republican Peter King. “It’s going to be close.”

While it softens some measures that would make health coverage more expensive for older people, the Obamacare overhaul remains a threat to hospitals and some insurers, which would see fewer paying patients if it passed.

Wooing Moderates

One indication that Ryan and his lieutenants are gaining important ground came late Monday when Representative Tom MacArthur of New Jersey and several other moderates said they would back the bill.

MacArthur co-chairs a group of House centrists known as the “Tuesday Group.” He was joined in his announcement by Representatives Tom McClintock of California, Martha McSally of Arizona and Robert Aderholt of Alabama. In a statement, the group pointed to adjustments to boost the bill’s tax credits for lower-income adults as key in helping to address their concerns.

Not all House moderates had yet joined in support by Tuesday morning, including MacArthur’s Tuesday Group co-chairman — Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. But securing centrist backing is key for GOP vote counters, who have little wiggle room given ongoing opposition from some conservatives.

“The bill will pass,” MacArthur said Tuesday.

But members had different opinions on whether the changes would be enough to get it through.

“I think there are obviously some small tweaks that are good tweaks but there’s no substantial changes in the manager’s amendment that would make anybody be more compelled to vote for this,” Meadows said Monday night.

House leaders were working hard to to win over remaining holdouts, both conservatives and moderates in their party, a process known as whipping votes.

‘A Whip That’s 10 Feet Long’

“They’re already whipping with a whip that’s 10 feet long and five feet wide,” Meadows said when asked if GOP leaders were trying to pick off individual members of the Freedom Caucus.

Ryan and his GOP lieutenants can afford to lose no more than 21 votes in the chamber, presuming all Democrats vote against the bill.

An outcry followed the introduction of the GOP bill, which would cut assistance for people buying insurance, roll back the Medicaid program for the poor and lead 24 million more Americans to be uninsured in 2026 than under Obamacare, according to one analysis. Swelling numbers of people unable to pay their medical bills would take billions of dollars out of the health-care system, pressuring hospitals, insurers and other health-care companies.

The changes to the bill give states another option for how their Medicaid payments from the federal government would be calculated. States could opt for block grant payments, instead of the per-person payment caps that were already in the measure. The so-called manager’s amendment would also repeal Obamacare’s taxes this year, one year earlier than originally planned.

New York Provision

Representative Chris Collins, a New York Republican, also told reporters Monday that leaders agreed to add a special provision to hold $2.3 billion a year in Medicaid funding from New York unless the state’s governor and state legislature agree to stop forcing counties to help pay for Medicaid. He said the change was needed to help persuade most New York Republicans in the House to back the measure.

The Medicaid provision is written to pertain only to New York counties outside of New York City, said Representative John Faso, a co-author.

Lawmakers are also facing pressure from back home. Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, sent a letter to his state’s delegation — nine Republicans and five Democrats — warning them of the law’s consequences in each of their districts. New York’s Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, on Monday slammed some of the state’s Republicans for supporting an amendment that could limit federal funding of the state’s Medicaid program.

The changes didn’t include an alteration some conservative GOP members sought to wind down Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid starting in 2018 rather than in 2020 as was proposed in the original legislation.

Some moderate Republicans also wanted to increase tax credits for older, poorer people — a demographic that would pay substantially more for health coverage under the GOP bill than under Obamacare. Those changes weren’t made in the most recent version, but part of the amendment leaves room for the Senate to increase the tax credits for that group.

Under the original legislation, older Americans would have been hit with significant increases in premiums without adequate financial assistance. This new pot of money is created by a tweak to the bill that lowers the amount Americans can deduct from their taxes for the cost of medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of their income. The threshold would shrink to 5.8 percent.

The Medicaid limits are an appeal to more conservative Republicans. Most members of the Freedom Caucus want to go further and make it mandatory in all states, a GOP aide said.

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-03-21/gop-leaders-tweak-health-bill-as-conservatives-repeat-opposition

Key Bloc of Conservative Lawmakers Endorse GOP Health Plan

March 17, 2017

Comments come after meeting Friday with group of 13 Republican lawmakers

President Donald Trump speaks to Vice President Mike Pence, left, and House Republicans at the White House Friday.

President Donald Trump speaks to Vice President Mike Pence, left, and House Republicans at the White House Friday. PHOTO: MIKE THEILER / POOL/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

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Updated March 17, 2017 2:38 p.m. ET

The House Republican health-care plan picked up an important endorsement on Friday from leaders of a bloc of conservative lawmakers, after President Donald Trump agreed to back more stringent curbs on Medicaid funding and proposals to add work requirements for its beneficiaries.

“100% of the nos are yeses,” Mr. Trump said of the group of 13 lawmakers he hosted in the Oval Office Friday morning, who included leaders of the conservative Republican Study Committee. The president said that overnight his administration had worked to convince many of the people in the room to back the bill and that he was confident he had their support now. “Every single person sitting in this room is now a yes.”

Leaders of the Republican Study Committee, a caucus that includes most of the House GOP lawmakers, repeated their willingness to back the bill as they left the White House, citing Mr. Trump’s backing for block grants and support for states adding requirements that beneficiaries show they are working or attempting to do so.

It wasn’t clear how many rank-and-file members of the Republican Study Committee were on board and if the bill has the support of enough Republicans to pass the House, which is expected to vote on it Thursday. A smaller group of conservatives, the House Freedom Caucus, could yet torpedo the legislation if all members withhold their support.

“President Trump himself committed that he is all in, 100% in, for this bill,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R., La.), who is in charge of rounding up lawmakers’ votes and a past leader in the committee.

Rep. Mark Walker (R., N.C.), the current chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said that lawmakers had held a conference call close to midnight to discuss the bill. He said that with commitments from the president to back block grants and work requirements in Medicaid, they were able to move “from undecided, or no, to a positive yes this morning.”

Reps Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) and Mia Love (R., Utah) emphasized the bill’s existing restrictions on abortion funding as a reason for support.

Several of the group’s members said after they left the White House that they entered undecided, but that Mr. Trump won them over by agreeing to two changes. One would let states impose a work requirement on Medicaid recipients. The second would allow states to choose between receiving their federal Medicaid funding in the form of a block grant or as a per capita allotment.

“Those are significant steps forward from my conservative perspective that make the bill much more agreeable,” said Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), who now plans to vote for the bill.

Mr. Trump said he supported the calls from House conservatives to restrict federal funding for Medicaid by giving states “block grants” in exchange for more leeway in how they run the program. He said he wanted states to continue to have federal help for their neediest but also the flexibility states have requested in managing the program.

In his comments Friday, Mr. Trump praised the visiting GOP House members, saying that they had been tough negotiators. Criticizing the 2010 health law is a point around which Republicans have been able to rally; the mechanics of undoing the law have been more divisive.

“It’s on a respirator,” Mr. Trump said. “Obamacare is not an alternative.”

Some lawmakers in the meeting had already publicly pledged support for the bill, including Mr. Scalise, the House Majority Whip. Members of the whip team, in charge of counting the votes, said they were getting closer to the 216 votes the bill will need to pass the chamber. The bill still has opposition from both conservative and centrist Republicans.

“It’s still in the works, but we’re getting closer and closer,” said Rep. Dennis Ross (R., Fla.).

Mr. Trump spoke after four Republican governors announced their opposition Thursday night to the House GOP legislation, another signal of the political challenges it faces from moderates within the Republican party as well as its right-wing.

The four GOP governors come from Ohio, Michigan, Nevada and Arkansas, states that expanded their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act. In a letter to congressional leaders, they cited the potential for the bill to strip people of Medicaid coverage.

The bill is still likely to be amended in the Senate, where a dozen Republicans have already indicated they consider the more conservative direction it is going in the House as unacceptable. Some centrist GOP senators say the legislation needs to give more generous support to rural, older and low-income people to help them buy health insurance.

Mr. Scalise said he was unruffled by that prospect Friday morning, because his responsibility was simply to get a bill out of the House.

“If they want to make additional changes, that’s called the legislative process,” said Mr. Scalise. “We’re just happy to get this bill passed through the House, that’s what we’re focused on, and the Senate can take care of their business.”

Write to Louise Radnofsky at louise.radnofsky@wsj.com, Michelle Hackman at Michelle.Hackman@wsj.com and Kristina Peterson at kristina.peterson@wsj.com

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