Posts Tagged ‘GOP senators’

Senate GOP hustles to meet tax bill holdouts’ demands

December 1, 2017

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans are stepping quickly to meet competing demands of holdout GOP senators for a tax overhaul package expected to add $1 trillion to the nation’s deficit over 10 years.

The Republicans eye a crucial final vote Friday on the $1.4 trillion Senate bill carrying the hopes of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party to preserve their majorities in next year’s elections.

Amid a whirl of meetings and dramatic votes Thursday evening, the Senate GOP leaders rewrote the bill behind closed doors. They weighed scaling back the tax cuts in the legislation to secure crucial support.

The leaders were making major changes up to the last minute, including one that would roll back some of the tax cuts after six years to appease deficit hawks — notably Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

Another faction to be reckoned with: senators supporting millions of businesses whose owners report the firm’s profits on their individual tax returns. The vast majority of U.S. businesses, big and small, are taxed this way. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., backed the tax legislation Wednesday after securing an increase in the deduction for business income from 17.4 percent to 20 percent.

But Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said Thursday that he is still withholding support for the bill because he’d like the deduction boosted to 25 percent.

The scramble to alter the bill came after the Senate’s parliamentarian ruled that automatic “triggers” designed to guard against big deficits would violate Senate rules. GOP leaders’ main concern was winning over the hawks worried about adding more red ink to the mounting $20 trillion deficit.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had expressed confidence early in the day, but he has little margin for error with a 52-48 Republican majority. He can afford to lose only two votes while counting on Vice President Mike Pence to break the tie.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, said the bill will have “alternative, frankly, tax increases we don’t want to do” to address deficit concerns.

Flake said the “trigger” tax increases would raise about $350 billion over 10 years, though he didn’t specify which taxes would go up.

In a dramatic turn, Democrats forced a vote on whether to return the measure to the Senate Finance Committee so it could be rewritten to ensure smaller deficits. After holding out for nearly an hour during the vote, Corker, Flake and Johnson eventually joined fellow Republicans to scuttle the Democratic proposal.

Corker has pushed to add automatic tax increases in future years if the package doesn’t raise as much revenue as projected.

With the provision seemingly dead, Corker said senators would change the bill to roll back some of the tax cuts in future years, regardless of whether tax revenues meet expectations. Flake said the tax increases would take affect after six years.

The overall legislation would bring the first overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 31 years. It would slash the corporate tax rate, offer more modest cuts for families and individuals and eliminate several popular deductions.

Unlike the tax bill passed by the House two weeks ago, the Senate measure would end the requirement in President Barack Obama’s health care law that people pay a tax penalty if they don’t buy health insurance.

The tax cuts for individuals in the Senate plan would expire in 2026 while the corporate tax cuts would be permanent.

Both the House and Senate bills would nearly double the standard deduction to around $12,000 for individuals and about $24,000 for married couples.

After Senate passage, lawmakers will try to reconcile the Senate bill with the House version in hopes of delivering a first major legislative accomplishment to Trump by Christmas.

A new analysis by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation found that the Senate bill would add $1 trillion to the deficit over a decade.

The bill would increase economic growth, generating an additional $458 billion in tax revenue, according to the analysis. That’s far short of the $2 trillion promised by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Two Republican senators, John McCain of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, announced their support for the tax package Thursday, giving it a major boost. The two had voted against the GOP bill to dismantle the Obama health care law this past summer.

Senators were still grappling with several issues, including a provision to add a deduction for local property taxes. The current Senate bill completely eliminates the federal deduction for state and local taxes, a popular benefit in the Democratic-leaning states of New York, New Jersey, California and Illinois as well as many wealthy suburbs nationwide.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, proposed an amendment to let homeowners deduct up to $10,000 in local property taxes on their federal returns. It’s similar to a provision in the House-passed bill. Without the deduction, Collins said, it would be “very problematic for me” to vote for the bill.


Associated Press writers Alan Fram and Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.


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Republicans Aren’t Team Players

July 17, 2017

GOP Senators who defect from ObamaCare repeal will hurt themselves, their party and the country.

Image may contain: 2 people

July 16, 2017 2:17 p.m. ET

Politics is a team sport, and Republicans are playing it poorly. They have one more chance in the Senate to repeal and replace ObamaCare—possibly their last hope for a victory.

Democrats are performing like a well-coached team. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has all 48 members of his caucus on board with saving ObamaCare at all cost. It’s been a successful strategy.

It works for one reason: Republicans are divided. Their 52-48 majority in the Senate means they can lose two votes and still prevail, since Vice President Mike Pence is the tiebreaker. After promising to get rid of ObamaCare for the past seven years, it shouldn’t be difficult.

But as many as eight Republican senators opposed the first GOP bill, forcing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to come up with a revised version. While an improvement, it has encountered opposition too. Mr. McConnell is skillful in bringing senators together. But here his task is more difficult than usual because the dissidents don’t all agree on what’s wrong with the bill. Appeasing one senator may alienate another.

This is an example of why legislative success depends on operating as a team. You don’t abandon your team just because you don’t get everything you want (or want left out). You hold your nose and vote for an imperfect measure, sometimes merely because it’s politically beneficial and better than the alternative.

This is especially true in dumping ObamaCare. The Republican alternative is a more free-market health-care system in which people can buy the insurance they want, not what government requires.

Sticking with the team makes that possible. But too many Republicans aren’t comfortable as team players. To them, it’s shady and unprincipled to vote for something about which you have serious doubts. Democrats are more realistic and less persnickety, so they’re better at uniting.

Senate GOP Health Bill Would End ACA Penalties, Cut Taxes on High Incomes

June 23, 2017

Legislation would cap states’ Medicaid funding, phase out program’s expansion

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), center, arrives to speak with reporters following a closed-door strategy session at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), center, arrives to speak with reporters following a closed-door strategy session at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday. PHOTO: J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Senate Republicans’ version of a bill to replace Obamacare drew mixed reactions on the Hill. But what do Americans want? A new WSJ poll shows many want Congress to find some way to fix the Affordable Care Act.

Updated June 22, 2017 5:53 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—Senate Republican leaders released a proposal Thursday that would undo major parts of the Affordable Care Act and transform a large part of the American health-care system by changing and cutting the funding for the Medicaid program.

he bill would reverse the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, a move that could affect millions of people, and would for the first time limit states’ overall Medicaid funding from Washington. It also would eliminate the requirement in the 2010 law that most Americans sign up for health insurance, and provide instead less-robust tax credits than the ACA to help people afford insurance. It would repeal hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes on businesses and high-income households and retroactively cut taxes on capital gains.

The Senate plan in many ways echoes a health bill passed by the House last month, but it contains several differences. It isn’t clear if those changes, such as the shape of the tax credits and a more gradual phasing-out of the Medicaid expansion, would be enough to attract more centrist Republicans without alienating the most conservative lawmakers in both chambers.

The challenge quickly became evident when four GOP senators — Ted Cruz of Texas, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky — said they couldn’t vote for the bill as it stood, though they were open to negotiation.

A more centrist GOP senator, Dean Heller of Nevada, who faces re-election next year, said he had “serious concerns” about the bill, particularly its effect on Medicaid recipients.

With 52 Republican senators, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can lose no more than two GOP votes for the bill to pass under a special process tied to the budget.

Thursday’s release of the 142-page bill, after its elements had been closely held by GOP leaders, launched a fast-moving process that top Republicans hope will culminate in a new health law’s passage possibly before Congress’s August recess. Senate GOP leaders say they plan to vote next week; if the bill passes, then the House could take it up, or the two chambers could try to reach a compromise on the two bills.

The Senate bill, mirroring its House counterpart, keeps some of the ACA’s provisions in place, like the tax credits to subsidize health coverage. But it would shift the income eligibility and some of the structure for those credits, which in some cases could reduce their size for older Americans, in particular.

In other areas the bill takes fuller aim at the ACA, former President Barack Obama’s signature law. The enhanced federal funding the 2010 law provided for states to expand Medicaid would be phased out starting in 2021 and eliminated by 2024. States could still keep the expansion, but they wouldn’t get the additional federal funds.

Beyond that expansion, federal funding for Medicaid would be capped for the first time. States would be given a choice on whether they would prefer block grants or a per-capita payment for beneficiaries.

In 2025, the bill would lower the growth rate for Medicaid spending, a move that alarmed some centrist Republicans. “That translates into literally billions of dollars, and it would result in states either cutting back on eligibility or rural hospitals going under because of uncompensated care,” said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. “Those are serious problems.”

Among Republicans’ loudest complaints about the ACA, sometimes called Obamacare, was that it imposed several new taxes, and the GOP push would undo most of them.

Like the House bill, the Senate bill would repeal a 3.8% tax on investment income retroactively to January 2017 and delay the repeal of a 0.9% payroll tax until 2023. Both of those taxes only apply to individuals making more than $200,000 and married couples making more than $250,000. A tax on generous employer health plans, which has yet to go into effect, would remain but be further delayed, until 2026.

Democrats criticized the bill for curbing Medicaid funding while repealing taxes on the wealthy, and referred to President Donald Trump’s recent characterization of the House version of the bill as “mean.”

“The House and Senate bills should be known as ‘mean’ and ‘meaner,’ ” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.). “Republicans will keep telling Americans they’re fixing their health care right up until the minute it’s taken away.”

GOP leaders were quick to note that the text was subject to change.

“Right now we’ve got members who are going to be interested in seeing it, digesting it, and then looking to see if there are things we can do to refine it, make it more acceptable to more members in our conference to get to 50” votes, said Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.).

In particular, Republicans may seek to “dial” the levels up or down on the tax credits and phase-out of the enhanced funding for Medicaid expansion, Mr. Thune said.

Other Republicans, like Mr. Paul, said the law didn’t go far enough in repealing the ACA, and the Kentucky senator said he didn’t favor the government subsidizing the cost of health insurance.

“The bill needs to look more like repeal of Obamacare, and less like we’re keeping Obamacare,” Mr. Paul said.

If the Senate splits 50-50, Vice President Mike Pence would break the tie.

Mr. McConnell has set a rapid-fire timeline for passage. An analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, laying out the bill’s effect on cost and coverage, could come as early as Monday. Senate Republicans plan to vote on the bill days later, and then it would be taken up by the House.

The CBO report on the House bill showed it would leave 23 million more people uninsured while reducing the cumulative federal deficit by $119 billion in the next decade compared with current law.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) declined to discuss the Senate bill’s prospects in the House Thursday. At the White House, Mr. Trump said he hoped the Senate would pass a health bill “with heart” and that he was pleased with the legislation unveiled earlier in the day.

Mr. Trump was heavily engaged in pushing the health bill through the House, sometimes dialing lawmakers late into the night. He has taken a more hands-off approach with the Senate, but a senior White House official said that could change.

Mr. Obama, in a post on Facebook Thursday, urged Republicans and Democrats to work together on a health bill but said the Senate’s proposal would harm many Americans.

“Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family — this bill will do you harm,” he said in the post.

Under the bill, states would get billions more in funding largely to help stabilize markets for insurance bought on exchanges that were set up under the ACA. The measure also includes a formal, temporary appropriation for billions of dollars for health insurers to offset subsidies that reduce costs for low-income consumers, though it faces procedural challenges.

Insurance-market woes in some states have prompted health plans to withdraw entirely, citing a combination of problems succeeding under the Affordable Care Act and additional turbulence under Republicans.

–Byron Tau and Natalie Andrews contributed to this article.

Write to Stephanie Armour at, Kristina Peterson at and Louise Radnofsky at




Senate Leaders Unveil Bill to Repeal the Affordable Care Act

June 22, 2017
  • Senators are likely to have only a handful of days to decide whether to support or vote against the bill
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has very little room for error

Washington (CNN) The closely guarded Senate health care bill written entirely behind closed doors finally became public Thursday in a do-or-die moment for the Republican Party’s winding efforts to repeal Obamacare.

The unveiling of the legislation marks the first time that the majority of the Senate GOP conference gets a comprehensive look at the health care proposal. With Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pressing ahead for a vote next week, senators are likely to have only a handful of days to decide whether to support or vote against the bill.
A draft circulating late Wednesday showed the Senate legislation would still make major changes to the nation’s health care system, drastically cut back on federal support of Medicaid, and eliminate Obamacare’s taxes on the wealthy, insurers and others. The Senate plan however would keep Obamacare’s subsidies to help people pay for individual coverage.
McConnell’s decision to keep the details tightly under wraps until Thursday was intentional and aimed at winning over his colleagues out of the public spotlight, but the secretive process has infuriated Democrats — and aggravated plenty of Republicans, too.
“I need the information to justify a ‘yes’ vote. I have a hard time believing that we would have that in such a short period of time,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, told CNN on Wednesday.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham joked: “We’ll know if it’s a boy or girl tomorrow.”
McConnell has very little room for error — he can only lose two Republican votes and still pass the bill.
President Donald Trump said Wednesday night he hopes to “surprise” with a plan that has “heart.”
“I hope we are going to surprise with a really good plan,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “You know I’ve been talking about a plan with heart. I said add some money to it. A plan with heart, but Obamacare is dead.”
The House passed its version of health care reform last month, but while Republicans celebrated that bill with Trump at the White House, the President has since called it “mean.”

Can McConnell get the votes?


Senior GOP senators were still putting final touches on the draft legislation on Wednesday, and it is still likely to change before any vote as members express their preferences.
Much like in the House, where moderate and conservative lawmakers were deeply divided on health care policy leading up to a vote in May, Senate Republicans also have clashing ideological views and priorities.
Some of the key issues that lawmakers are most concerned about include Medicaid reform, regulatory waivers, the state stability fund and tax credits. McConnell has a tough needle to thread: making significant concessions to conservatives risks losing moderate votes, and vice versa.

Trump mocks Dems against his health care plan

Trump mocks Dems against his health care plan 01:33

What will CBO say?



The legislation will also have to undergo parliamentary scrutiny to ensure that it meets the strict requirements on what can or can’t be included in a bill under the budget reconciliation process.
One report that will inform Senate Republicans as they decide whether to support the bill will be a score from the Congressional Budget Office, expected to come out in the coming days.
The CBO analysis will shed light on how much money the bill would cost and how many people would be covered. Senate Republicans hope to see better headlines from this CBO report than the one that the House GOP legislation received. CBO said the House bill would result in 23 million fewer people insured in 2026 than under Obamacare.

What’s in the bill and differences with the House


While the Senate bill is largely similar to the House passed-bill, there are some key differences.
Medicaid has been one of the central sticking points in the debate. The bill would continue the enhanced Medicaid expansion funding from Obamacare until 2021 and then phase it out over three years. This is a concession to moderates, who weren’t pleased that the House version would end the enhanced support for new enrollees in 2020.
However, conservatives also get some of what they want when it comes to overhauling the entire Medicaid program. The Senate bill would keep the House plan to send a fixed amount of money to states each year based on enrollment or as a lump sum block grant. But it would shrink the program even more over time by pegging the annual growth rate of those funds to standard inflation, rather than the more generous medical inflation, starting in 2025. This would likely force states to cut enrollment, benefits or provider payments.
The Senate bill would also largely maintain Obamacare’s premium subsidies structure, but tighten the eligibility criteria starting in 2020. Fewer middle class folks would get help because only those earning up to 350% of the poverty level would qualify, rather than the 400% threshold contained in Obamacare. But it would also open up the subsidies to enrollees below the poverty level so those living in states that didn’t expand Medicaid could get some assistance.
Senators opted to keep Obamacare’s subsidies to prevent the funds from being used for abortions. The House bill called for creating tax credits based largely on age, but adding abortion restrictions to these credits could have run afoul of Senate rules governing the bill. Still, the similarities to Obamacare will likely infuriate conservatives such as Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who decried the House version as “Obamacare Lite.”
Also, as in the House bill, it would defund Planned Parenthood for one year.
The Senate also backs away from some last minute House concessions to conservatives that would have allowed states to opt out of several protections for those with pre-existing conditions, but insurers would not be allowed to charge higher premiums to those with pre-existing conditions.
The bill would also aim to shore up the existing Obamacare market by allocating funds for the cost-sharing subsidies until 2019. This will placate insurers, who were distraught by Trump’s refusal to commit to continue making these payments, leading many carriers to hike rates or drop out of the exchanges for 2018.

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans, who have promised a repeal of the Affordable Care Act for seven years, took a major step on Thursday toward that goal, unveiling a bill to cut Medicaid deeply and end the health law’s mandate that most Americans have health insurance.

The 142-page bill would create a new system of federal tax credits to help people buy health insurance, while offering states the ability to drop many of the benefits required by the Affordable Care Act, like maternity care, emergency services and mental health treatment.

The Senate bill — once promised as a top-to-bottom revamp of the health bill passed by the House last month — instead maintains its structure, with modest adjustments. The Senate version is, in some respects, more moderate than the House bill, offering more financial assistance to some lower-income people to help them defray the rapidly rising cost of private health insurance.

But the Senate measure, like the House bill, would phase out the extra money that the federal government has provided to states as an incentive to expand eligibility for Medicaid. And like the House measure, it would put the entire Medicaid program on a budget, ending the open-ended entitlement that now exists.

It would also repeal virtually all the tax increases imposed by the Affordable Care Act to pay for itself, in effect handing a broad tax cut to the affluent, paid for by billions of dollars sliced from Medicaid, a health care program that serves one in five Americans, not only the poor but two-thirds of those in nursing homes. The bill, drafted in secret, is likely to come to the Senate floor next week, and could come to a vote after 20 hours of debate.

If it passes, President Trump and the Republican Congress would be on the edge of a major overhaul of the American health care system — onesixth of the nation’s economy.

The premise of the bill, repeated almost daily in some form or other by its chief author, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is that “Obamacare is collapsing around us, and the American people are desperately searching for relief.”

Mr. Trump shares that view, and the Senate bill, if adopted, would move the president a great distance closer to being able to boast about final passage of a marquee piece of legislation, a feat he has so far been unable to accomplish.

In the Senate, Democrats are determined to defend a law that has provided coverage to 20 million people and is a pillar of former President Barack Obama’s legacy. The debate over the repeal bill is shaping up as a titanic political clash, which could have major implications for both parties, affecting their electoral prospects for years to come.

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