Posts Tagged ‘obamacare’

Is the Republican Tax Plan Sailing or Stalling?

November 15, 2017


By Jonathan Bernstein

Which way does it go?

 Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

How’s the tax bill doing?

The House version is heading to the House floor for a vote this week. In normal Congresses, party leaders don’t move a bill to that stage unless they have the votes. So that would suggest that it will pass. On the other hand, have you been watching this Congress?

The Senate version is ready for committee consideration on Wednesday. Bloomberg’s Steven Dennis has been reporting that the bill is “moving like a freight train” with no Republican Senators so far coming out against it. That’s where things stand, but that is no guarantee that they won’t fall apart. Republicans on Tuesday added repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate, among several changes to the bill. Here’s the thing: Why do you make major last-minute changes to a bill, adding something controversial?

Perhaps because it is certain to pass, and so the party adds something that needs a vehicle because it can’t pass by itself. That’s possible, I suppose, but it seems very unlikely to me.

Perhaps because it is in trouble, and needs help. Odds are that’s it. The mandate repeal will appeal to some Republicans on its own, but it also scores as a savings and therefore can lower the deficit increases in the bill or pay for some goodies for particular Senators or both. The downside is that destabilizing the individual health insurance market might not appeal to all Senate Republicans.

Or, perhaps they have no idea what they’re doing, and they’re just flailing around aimlessly. I don’t actually think that’s the case. On the other hand, have you been watching this Congress?

I’ll add that both Speaker Paul Ryan and especially Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have repeatedly used bandwagon tactics to try to get bills through that were a little short. That presumably involves convincing tentative “no” votes to keep quiet for the moment, with the hope that if everyone thinks something will pass, then it really will. It’s not necessarily a foolish thing to try, and it may be going on now. Or not! They may really have the votes for now. Don’t forget that because this is being done through the reconciliation process, there’s still a “Byrd bath” ahead on the Senate side which could knock out major provisions and, in doing so, potentially lose some votes. The bill authors know that and have written the bill with it in mind, but there’s always uncertainty about it.

The House and Senate bills are very different, which means that getting each one through its own chamber is only the first step. They could then move to a formal conference committee and work out a compromise. Or one chamber can take the product of the other and just pass it as-is. Or a chamber can take the other bill, pass it with changes to bring it closer to their own version, and then send it back across the Capitol. Even if both Houses of Congress manage to pass their original bills, there’s a ways to go.

So will it pass, or collapse? I’m sticking with what I’ve been saying: The key variable is simply how much Republicans in Congress collectively care about passing something. Yes, there are plenty of tricky provisions and difficult compromises to make, and it already polls badly and is likely if anything to look even more unpopular if it stays in the spotlight. But if it’s what members really want, then I don’t see any obstacles that just can’t be overcome. Or at least shouldn’t be impossible to overcome. On the other hand, have you been watching this Congress?


1. Babak Bahador at the Monkey Cage on why pro-Trump Facebook ads probably had little effect. Of course, in a very close election, tiny effects can be decisive, and as a foreign policy matter that’s not the question that matters anyway.

2. Also at the Monkey Cage: Kathy Goldschmidt and Lorelei Kelly on a Congress unable to do its job.

3. Dave Hopkins on the Roy Moore saga.

4. Michelle Goldberg has a reasonable assessment of the old charges against Bill Clinton and why Democrats weren’t unfairly dismissive in doubting them — which doesn’t mean none of it was true.

5. Catherine Rampell wants to know why Republicans can’t tell the truth about their own tax bills.

6. Ezra Klein looks at how the party decided for Hillary Clinton before 2016, and argues that they would have been better served had they waited. Perhaps. It’s easy to see the downside of things as they actually worked out, but that doesn’t mean other paths didn’t have significant downsides as well. It’s also hard to blame the Clinton campaign for trying their hardest to nail things down early after her experience in 2008. One nitpick. The “party decides” idea of presidential nominations, and the larger party network approach to U.S. political parties, was always quite contested within political science, but was overrepresented in political science blogs, especially during the 2012 election cycle.

7. Here at View, Komal Sri-Kumar on Trump trade policy.

8. And Fred Kaplan on the nuclear launch hearing.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Mike Nizza at


Obama health mandate now target of GOP in big tax bil

November 15, 2017

The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Promoted as needed relief for the middle class, the House and Senate tax overhaul bills would deeply cut corporate rates, double the standard deduction used by most Americans and limit or repeal completely the federal deduction for state and local property, income and sales taxes. Republican leaders deem passage of the first major tax overhaul in 30 years as imperative for the GOP to preserve its majorities in next year’s elections.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Senate GOP Adds Health-Care Twist to Tax Overhaul Plan

November 15, 2017

Republicans add provision repealing health-law insurance mandate

Image may contain: 3 people, suit

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., at a news conference on Tuesday where they announced that the individual mandate to have health insurance would be repealed in the Senate GOP tax bill.   J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate Republicans attached a provision to their tax overhaul that would repeal the requirement that all Americans have health insurance, a new twist in the GOP lawmakers’ efforts to rewrite much of the U.S. tax code.

The insurance mandate is a centerpiece of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Repealing it is a long-sought goal of Republicans, who see it as onerous. Moreover, eliminating the mandate could free up federal tax revenue because it would mean fewer households buying insurance and thus fewer applying for federal health-care subsidies or for Medicaid.

Republicans plan to use the money freed up by repealing the mandate to direct tax cuts to middle-income households. They want to increase their proposed $1,650 child tax credit to $2,000 per child and lower the tax rates in three brackets, dropping the proposed 22.5%, 25% and 32.5% rates to 22%, 24% and 32%, respectively, according to the proposal, released Tuesday night by the Senate Finance Committee.

Those alterations, which the committee will debate Wednesday, will help Republicans show more tangible benefits to families, and the bigger child credit was a priority for some GOP senators.

Under the changes announced late Tuesday, almost all of the individual tax cuts and the tax cuts for pass-through businesses would expire at the end of 2025.

That would help Republicans follow the fast-track process they are using, which lets them pass a bill without needing Democratic votes but prevents them from adding to projected budget deficits after 2027. However it opens them to Democratic arguments that they are prioritizing corporations’ permanent cuts over individuals. And Democrats will likely be able to point to significant tax increases for individuals in 2027

The updated version of the tax bill also would make more businesses eligible for a new special deduction, double a deduction for teachers’ out-of-pocket expenses and create a tax credit for businesses that offer paid family leave.

Including the health-policy change adds a new layer of complexity to an already labyrinthine tax debate. Republicans have been speeding ahead, powered by a political imperative to reach a big economic-policy goal. So far, in their effort to overhaul the tax code, they have made progress in overcoming internal frictions over deficits, taxes on the wealthy, state and local deductions, child tax credits and business taxation. But they haven’t solved all those challenges yet, and Tuesday’s move adds health care to that list.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he was confident in the tax bill’s chances. He contrasted it with the effort to repeal the ACA outright earlier this year. “Every meeting I had on health care was like a trip to get a root canal,” he said at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council. “Nobody wanted to be there.”

A federal analysis showed repealing the mandate would increase by 13 million the number of people without health insurance by 2027 and increase premiums. It also complicates the economics of health coverage by shrinking the pool of healthy and younger people who are insured, making it harder to pay for those who end up with big health expenses. All that could spook moderate Republicans who balked at earlier attempts to repeal the ACA because it would raise the number of uninsured.

The repeal, though, would lower the federal deficit an estimated $318 billion over a decade. Moreover, Republican lawmakers have been pressed by President Donald Trump to knock down the mandate, a requirement that conservatives see as onerous and which the president could weaken through executive action even if GOP lawmakers don’t act.

Republican aides cautioned Tuesday that they couldn’t guarantee there were enough votes to pass a tax bill with the health-care provision attached. The Finance Committee aims to finish the bill this week, setting up a vote by the full Senate after Thanksgiving.

Democrats panned the move and pointed to Republicans’ insistence on cutting the corporate tax rate to 20%. “The tax bill is going to hit the American people with a health-care double whammy,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), warning that millions of people would lose their health insurance or pay higher premiums.

House Republicans, who aim to pass their own version of a tax plan Thursday, began the day wary of moving too fast on taxes on their own. Among their worries was that Mr. Trump might criticize their effort, as he did during the health-care fight earlier this year. They also worried about whether Senate Republicans would be able to follow through and pass tax legislation, avoiding a repeat of the tensions that doomed their health-care bill earlier this year.

“We just want to know if we’re headed for the same rocks for being the first kid to go to the blackboard to try to spell the word,” said Rep. Mark Amodei (R., Nev.), who has told House Republican leaders that he is still undecided. “After the experience with health care, when we were first to go, it’s not that our product was perfect but it was like, you get absolutely shredded by the folks on the other side of the building, and even some of the president’s comments.”

Still, House leaders said they were confident they would limit defections and pass their own tax bill, which doesn’t address the individual mandate.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) indicated Tuesday evening that the House would wait to see if the Senate can pass a tax bill that repeals the individual mandate.

“We didn’t want to complicate tax reform and make it harder than it otherwise would be,” Mr. Ryan said at a Fox News town-hall meeting on taxes Tuesday evening.

Differences between the House and Senate plan will need to be reconciled in a conference committee if both bills pass.

“I want to support a good tax reform bill in one form or the other here. So I think it’s important we keep the House bill moving,” said Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R., Calif.), who said the tougher vote will be on the final product of a House-Senate agreement. “That’s where the rubber meets the road.”

Other differences between the House and Senate linger. For example, the House bill preserves a $10,000 deduction for property taxes; the Senate bill would repeal that, along with deductions for state and local income and sales taxes. Republican lawmakers had been debating for weeks whether to attach the individual mandate repeal to the tax bill, which lowers corporate tax rates, removes deductions and repeals the alternative minimum tax.

GOP lawmakers said repealing the mandate would mean fast relief to people who don’t get subsidies on the individual market, who otherwise might have to pay the significant premium increases next year.

But the aftereffects could haunt Republicans, and they involve the same concerns that prevented the Senate from passing a health bill. Health analysts warn that knocking down the insurance requirement would roil the individual markets. Average premiums for people who buy private insurance would rise by about 10% in most years of the coming decade, according to an estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Republicans pitch it as a tax cut, saying the savings generated by the mandate’s repeal will go to lower taxes for middle-income households. “If we’re talking about doing the right thing for the middle class, we’re talking about doing the right thing for hardworking Americans, here’s a good place to start cutting their taxes,” said Sen. Tim Scott (R., S.C.).

Focus in the Senate will now turn to Republicans who may be hesitant to vote for a package that raises the number of people without health coverage.

GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona haven’t indicated they would oppose the tax bill over the individual mandate. Both voted against the final Senate effort to dismantle the ACA in late July, along with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska). “My concern is that if we combine the health-care issues with tax reform, we make it far more controversial,” Ms. Collins told reporters Tuesday.

Mr. McCain said he needed to evaluate repealing the individual mandate as part of the broader tax bill.

Write to Stephanie Armour at and Richard Rubin at

Trump calls for repeal of ObamaCare mandate, cuts to top tax rate

November 14, 2017

By Naomi Jagoda
The Hill


 November 13, 2017
Trump calls for repeal of ObamaCare mandate, cuts to top tax rate
© Getty Images
President Trump on Monday said the final GOP tax bill should include language repealing ObamaCare’s individual mandate and cutting the top individual tax rate to 35 percent.
“I am proud of the Rep. House & Senate for working so hard on cutting taxes {& reform.} We’re getting close!” Trump tweeted.
“Now, how about ending the unfair & highly unpopular Indiv Mandate in OCare & reducing taxes even further? Cut top rate to 35% w/all of the rest going to middle income cuts?”
Trump, who is currently in the Philippines for the last leg of his 12-day tour of Asia, has repeatedly called for the tax legislation to include a repeal of the individual mandate in recent weeks. Repeal of the mandate is not in either the House or Senate bills, but GOP lawmakers say the issue is still under discussion.


President Trump on Monday at a summit meeting in Manila. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized Trump’s comments in his own statement, saying that the president’s core blue-collar, middle class supporters were being sold out.“The President’s awful idea would take a plan that’s already heavily tilted towards the wealthy and make it even worse,” he wrote. “This proposal would send premiums for millions of Americans skyrocketing, all so that the wealthy can get an even bigger tax giveaway than they’d get under the original Republican plan.”


Both the House and Senate bills have top individual tax rates above 35 percent. The House bill would keep the top individual rate at 39.6 percent, while the Senate bill lowers the top rate slightly to 38.5 percent.
Achieving both of Trump’s requests could be a challenge for congressional Republicans. While repealing the individual mandate would produce savings, some lawmakers are weary of mixing health care and tax reform. And cutting the top individual rate could be expensive and help to further Democrats’ attacks that Republicans’ tax plans are aimed at helping the rich.
The House is expected to vote on its bill this week, and the measure appears likely to pass. The Senate Finance Committee will start marking up legislation on Monday afternoon.
Under the budget resolution lawmakers are using to prevent Democrats from blocking tax legislation, the bill can’t add more than $1.5 trillion to the deficit over 10 years.
This story was updated at 12:49 p.m.
See also:

Trump Again Wades Into Tax Debate, Suggesting Repeal of Obamacare Mandate


GOP is shackled to Trump

November 13, 2017

By Juan Williams
The Hill
November 13, 2017

Well, there goes the fake news.

It is real news that Republicans got shellacked last Tuesday in gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey.

And it is real news that President Trump’s grip as the party’s leader loosened for the first time since he claimed the White House.

Republican running in 2018 saw the reality of an anti-Trump wave among white suburban voters. House Republicans rely on votes from suburban areas to keep their majorities in states such as Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Florida.


Republicans currently hold 23 seats in congressional districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016 and 11 in districts she lost by fewer than five percentage points.

The anger at Trump was evident in exit polls conducted by Edison Media Research.

In Virginia, Republican Ed Gillespie won 91 percent of voters who “approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president.” Democrat Ralph Northam won 87 percent of those who disapprove.

In essence, Gillespie had all the Trump voters. But there just weren’t enough of them and Northam won easily, by nine points.

People upset with Trump turned out in big numbers. In fact, exit polls showed one-third of the electorate wanted to send a message of opposition to Trump with their vote for governor.

Now the urgent fear among Republicans on Capitol Hill is a 2018 landslide for Democrats as voters turn on Trump.

The vote in Virginia comes on the heels of Trump’s disapproval hitting 57 percent in the latest Fox News poll.

The president’s support among white men without a college degree is down to 56 percent from the 71 percent who voted for him a year ago. He has lost support among white evangelicals, with 66 percent supporting him now instead of the 80 percent that voted for him. He has also seen his support among independents slide from 46 percent in 2016 to 30 percent today.

Trump’s support among self-identified Republicans remains high at 83 percent in the Fox poll, but fewer people overall are identifying themselves as Republicans.

That sets the stage for the battle to claim the future of the party going into the 2018 races.

On one side, you have Trump and Steve Bannon, his former top political aide. On the other side are the Presidents Bush, both 41 and 43, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) trapped in the ring and ducking punches from both sides.

The fight comes down to a contest between Trump’s anti-immigrant, isolationist, white grievance politics and the Bush policies favoring immigration, free trade and growing the party through outreach to racial minorities.

After last week’s defeat in Virginia, Trump and Bannon quickly threw dirt on Gillespie. Trump said Gillespie did “not embrace me or what I stand for.” Bannon piled on by saying the “lesson” of the loss was that future Republican candidates must avoid campaigning with President George W. Bush and “embrace the entire Trump agenda,” to the point of taking Trump on the campaign trail.

But Gillespie, the former party chairman, did use Trump-like advertising that focused on stirring fear of immigrants by tying them to MS-13 gangs; he did defend Confederate statues; and he did attack athletes kneeling to protest police brutality.

Gillespie lost because Virginia voters rejected Trump’s politics.

The Bush team also punched back.

“This guy doesn’t know what it means to be president,” the younger President Bush said of Trump in an interview for a new book.

“I don’t like him,” the elder President Bush told author Mark Updegrove. “I don’t know much about [Trump] but I know he’s a blowhard. And I’m not too excited about him being our leader.”

The Bush’s comments drew a sharp rebuke from Trump’s White House

“If one presidential candidate can disassemble a political party, it speaks volumes about how strong a legacy its past two presidents really had,” an unnamed White House official told CNN. “And that begins with the Iraq war, one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in American history.”

The split between Bush-style establishment conservatism and Trump populism has already hurt the party with about two dozen House Republicans announcing this is a good time for them to leave.

That rush for the door comes as polls show “voters say they prefer Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives over Republicans by the widest margin in over a decade,” the Washington Post reported before Tuesday’s GOP collapse.

Ryan said last week that despite the intraparty fight, it is too late for his House caucus to do anything but side with Trump on the future of the party.

“We already made that choice,” Ryan said on Fox News Radio. “We’re with Trump. We already made that choice… That’s a choice we made during the campaign, which is we merged our agendas.”

What must Republican congressional candidates be thinking today when their Speaker tells them they are handcuffed to a president who has the lowest approval rating in 70 years? At what point do they ignore the Speaker’s directive, cut ties with the president and strike out on their own?

A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that just 37 percent of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling his job, while 59 percent disapprove. In the history of the poll, no American president has had a net negative rating so high in his ninth month in office since Harry Truman in 1945.

But Ryan has the real news: Every Republican on the ballot in 2018 will have Donald Trump as a running mate.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.


Unruly GOP Tax Factions Put Senate’s Tax Plan in Jeopardy

November 13, 2017


By Sahil Kapur

  • Groups include fiscal skeptics, tax-cut fans and wildcards
  • Senate leaders will have to corral 50 votes quickly to succeed
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellPhotographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is about to face a legacy-defining test of whether he can keep his unruly caucus in line to deliver President Donald Trump’s coveted goal of “massive tax cuts” in 2017.

He needs 50 of 52 members, and they have a variety of competing demands. Some want to limit new deficits, while others want to deepest tax cut possible; some prioritize family tax breaks while others want to give businesses a boost; some have parochial concerns while others tend to be notoriously difficult to win on major pieces of legislation.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn says he wants a floor vote the week of Nov. 27. That’s two weeks away. Here are the factions McConnell and his team have to navigate:

The Fiscal Skeptics

The tax plan going before the Senate Finance Committee Monday would increase the federal deficit by about $1.5 trillion over the next decade — before accounting for any economic growth that it might spur. That complicates the plan’s prospects among some Republicans.

Tennessee’s Bob Corker, Arizona’s Jeff Flake and Oklahoma’s James Lankford have all warned against fiscal recklessness in the bill.

Corker says he doesn’t want a “penny” in new deficits or he’ll vote against the bill. Lankford says it should be revenue-neutral in the first decade and beyond. Both say they’re willing to assume “reasonable” economic growth that would cushion the deficit impact.

After the Senate plan’s rollout Thursday, Flake fired a warning shot: “I remain concerned over how the current tax reform proposals will grow the already staggering national debt,” he said.

Corker and Flake plan to retire next year, freeing them from political pressure to support their party or please GOP donors.

The Senate plan will change, but for now, one analysis says it would increase the deficit. On Friday, a conservative-leaning policy group, the Washington-based Tax Foundation, projected that plan would boost the deficit $516 billion over a decade, even after assuming economic growth.

The Businessmen

Georgia’s David Perdue is the former CEO of both Reebok and Dollar General. South Dakota’s Mike Rounds is a former partner for an insurance and real estate firm. For both, the business side of the tax plan is paramount.

If any new revenue measures went after businesses to boost offsets, that could be a problem for them.

So far, Congress’s proposal to cut the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent has gotten the most attention among business provisions. The House bill would deliver that cut next year, but the Senate plan would delay it until 2019. That won’t sit well with Perdue, who has said that “delays on tax would damage our economy.”

“We need to have a sense of urgency like never before in order get this done this year,” he has said of tax cuts.

Rounds said last month that he wants an “equitable” 25 percent tax rate for partnerships, limited liability companies and other so-called pass-through businesses — a provision that doesn’t include income limits on which firms get the low rate.

But the Senate plan would go a different route, providing a 17.4 percent deduction for such businesses’ non-wage income. That break would not be available to many types of service businesses — except for those whose taxable income falls below $150,000 for joint filers or $75,000 for all others.

The Cut, Cut, Cut Corps

President Donald Trump is reported to have suggested that the name of the tax legislation should be the “Cut, Cut, Cut” Bill. He might find common cause with Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, Texas’s Ted Cruz and Kentucky’s Rand Paul.

All three senators have emphasized that they want the steepest and longest-lasting tax cut possible. Deficits are of less concern to them; they believe Congress should focus on boosting the economy and deal with deficits by cutting spending.
Toomey downplayed the tax plan’s estimated $1.5 trillion cost, saying Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the legislation would lead to “greater economic growth, a larger economy, and therefore, more revenue to the federal government.”

Paul, a libertarian purist who’s not fond of compromise, has called for a tax bill in which “everyone gets a tax cut” — ideally “at least 15% for every taxpayer.” McConnell and other GOP leaders have already said they can’t meet that standard, acknowledging that under a broad overhaul there will be outliers who see a tax hike.

Cruz last month urged his party to be “unapologetic” for tax cuts, arguing on CNBC that “we should be going much bigger and bolder” than the $1.5 trillion limit.

The Family Guys

Utah’s Mike Lee and Florida’s Marco Rubio insist their main tax priority is to double the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $2,000. The Senate plan would raise it to $1,650. Both senators say that’s not enough.

“While we are glad to see an increase to the child tax credit, like the House bill, it is simply not enough for working families,” they said in a joint statement. The two senators also want to apply the credit against payroll taxes as well as income taxes.

Simply raising it to $1,650 costs $582 billion over 10 years, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. Going higher would only worsen the red ink, unless tax writers find other offsetting revenue.

Would Lee and Rubio scuttle a tax bill if they don’t get their way? That’s unclear, but they have staked out a position, and any retreat would come with some political cost.

“The Senate is not going to pass a bill that isn’t clearly pro-family,” the pair said in their statement.

The Moderates

Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski showed they’re not afraid to deal Trump or Republican leaders a devastating defeat this year when they cast pivotal votes to block an Obamacare repeal bill.

Collins has made a few tax-related demands that have already been met — including no repeal of the estate tax and no increase in the lowest individual income tax rate of 10 percent. But she also said people making over $1 million shouldn’t get a tax cut, and the Senate proposal would cut the top rate modestly to 38.5 percent from 39.6 percent.

Murkowski has said little about the tax effort so far, and she tends to be cryptic about her intentions on major legislation before casting her vote. Republican leaders gave her an enticement in the budget vehicle for the tax debate: a fast-track vote to permit oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Wildcards

Senator John McCain of Arizona showed his vote can’t be taken for granted with a momentous thumbs-down on the Senate floor that killed Obamacare repeal in July. He has a mixed record on taxes, having voted against Republican tax-cut efforts in 2001 and 2003, citing deficit concerns. McCain, 81 and battling brain cancer, has demanded a bipartisan process through regular order on a tax overhaul.

He tweeted Thursday that he’s “pleased” with the tax effort so far. “I’ve long believed we need to fix our burdensome tax system & am reviewing the Senate bill to ensure it benefits the people of #Arizona,” he wrote.

A different kind of maverick is giving Republican leaders heartburn lately, and he’s not even a senator — at least not yet.

Roy Moore, the GOP nominee for a Dec. 12 special election Alabama, is fending off allegations that he had sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl almost four decades ago. The former judge has denied those allegations, and others that he pursued dates with three other teenagers when he was in his 30s.

Recent polls show Moore slipping in the race against Democrat Doug Jones. A loss would cut the GOP’s margin for error in half — to just one senator.

One way to avoid that problem: Get both the House and Senate to hammer out compromise legislation before Moore — or his Democratic opponent — is sworn in.

Democrats, GOP Spar Over Who Is to Blame for Rising Health-Insurance Premiums

November 9, 2017

This week’s election results suggest political challenges for Republicans on health care one year before 2018 midterm vote

Virginia Governor-elect Dr. Ralph Northam after his decisive victory. PHOTO: WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY IMAGES

The day before Halloween, Dorie Lawson learned her health insurance premiums would jump by 60% next year to nearly $3,000 a month.

Now she is looking for someone to blame. Her insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming, cited uncertainty about health policy in Washington, especially regarding federal payments to insurers, in raising its premiums this way.

Ms. Lawson, of Sheridan, Wyo., wonders if President Donald Trump, who in October decided to end those subsidies, is at least partly to blame.

“Trump had that executive order on health care, and I think it’s made it worse for us,” said Ms. Lawson, adding she is unsure how to pay for the premium increase. “We were up all night feeling like we got punched. We’re figuring out what we’re going to do.”

The battle in Washington over the fate of the Obama-era law is now starting to hit Americans’ pocketbooks as the ACA’s open enrollment seasons begins, allowing consumers to choose their plans for 2018. Millions of people who don’t get subsidies are seeing steeper costs, sparking a battle between Democrats and Republicans over who gets the blame.

Tuesday’s election results suggest the politics of health care may be tilting against Republicans for the first time in years. Democrats have long paid a political price for the ACA’s unpopularity, losing elections since 2010 after the law was passed through last year, when the health law’s problems factored heavily into the Republican message.

But this week, Virginia voters cited health care in exit polls as an important reason for delivering the governorship to Democrat Ralph Northam, while a ballot initiative in Maine to expand the state’s Medicaid program won decisively. That follows the GOP’s failure to repeal the ACA and low public approval for the alternatives it offered.

If those developments signal a broader shift in the landscape, it could have a big impact on the 2018 midterm elections, where all seats in the House and a third in the Senate are up for grabs. Adding an unpredictable element to the mix, many voters in states that supported Mr. Trump will face some of the biggest increases.

In Deaf Smith, Texas, for example, a 40-year old single individual who earns too much for federal aid will see premiums jump 87%—from about $290 to $540—according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of prices for a popular, midprice health plan. Only people who make less than 400% of the poverty level—about $48,000 in most states this year—are eligible for federal aid.

In Clinton, Iowa, premiums will rise from $288 to $781, an increase of 171%, for the same plan.

According to an October poll by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News, 50% of Americans would blame Republicans if health-care costs rise and people lose coverage, while 37% would blame Democrats.

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Both sides have begun positioning themselves for the coming campaign. About 40 liberal-leaning groups announced recently they would join forces to target Republicans on health care in 2018.

In the Virginia governor’s race, Mr. Northam ran ads spotlighting his career as a pediatrician and pledging to “provide access to health care for all Virginians, not take it away.” He criticized Mr. Trump for ending payments to insurers that subsidize low-income consumers.

Mr. Trump, for his part, has begun pointing the finger at Democrats. “As usual, the ObamaCare premiums will be up (the Dems own it), but we will Repeal & Replace and have great Healthcare soon after Tax Cuts!” he tweeted recently. A new Republican ad blames rising premiums on the ACA, blaming Democrats for blocking GOP plans to overhaul it.

The conflict is also playing out within parties. Nevada GOP Senate candidate Danny Tarkanian tweeted in September that incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R., Nev.) was “deceitful” for backing a bill that would have cut Medicaid after saying he wouldn’t. Democrats have also run ads hammering Mr. Heller for supporting ACA repeal.

Mr. Heller has responded by seeking to position himself in the middle, saying that “Obamacare clearly isn’t the answer—but doing nothing isn’t the answer either.”

Mr. Trump in early October stopped paying billions of dollars to insurers under an ACA program that offset subsidies received by some lower-income consumers to help with out-of-pocket medical costs. Some states had let insurers file higher rates for 2018 in case the payments ceased, while others moved quickly following Mr. Trump’s action to let insurers raise rates.

Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) offered a bill restoring the payments to insurers for two years, while giving states more say in implementing the ACA. Mr. Trump opposes the deal, but if it passes in December, as backers hope, consumers would start getting notices about rate relief from insurers about a month before the 2018 election.

Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.) (left) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.)

“The people who are forgotten are the nine million who don’t get insurance on the job or federal government and don’t get subsidies,” said Mr. Alexander. “They’re getting hammered.”

Some Republicans support the Alexander-Murray proposal. Others are ramping up efforts to repeal the ACA’s requirement that most people have health coverage or pay a fine, which may be included in a tax-overhaul bill Congress is currently working on.

‘The people who are forgotten are the nine million who don’t get insurance on the job or federal government and don’t get subsidies.’

—Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.)

The individual insurance market, where people buy private coverage if they don’t get it through work or programs such as Medicare or Medicaid, remains largely stable for now. But analysts expect that next year, the gulf between people who get subsidies and those who don’t will widen.

Many of the roughly 8.7 million lower-income people who receive subsidies will see their financial-assistance rise to offset premium increases.

But the roughly 7 million middle-income consumers who make too much to get subsidies or are in plans that aren’t eligible for the aid may see their premiums jump. Republicans say that is because the ACA isn’t working and insurers are fleeing the market; Democrats say the GOP is driving up premiums by undermining the ACA and creating uncertainty.

“There is unquestionably a growing divide in affordability between lower-income people who qualify for premium subsidies and middle-income people who do not,” said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

AnnMarie McIlwain, a patient advocate in Summit, N.J., pays $1,087 a month for a family policy, and her premiums next year are going up 39%. With their deductible, the family’s annual health costs could surpass $20,000.

“I find it outrageous. I think there’s going to be a huge outcry,” said Mrs. McIIwain, 56. “They have gone up year over year, but never like this.”

Write to Stephanie Armour at

Republicans Take Stock After Election Losses

November 9, 2017

Both parties re-examine plans for 2018 House and Senate campaigns following Democratic victories

Virginia Gov.-elect, Ralph Northam at a news conference at the Capitol in Richmond Wednesday. Photo: Steve Helber/Associated Press

Republicans scrambled Wednesday to prevent a potential Democratic wave in next year’s midterm elections after a political shellacking Tuesday fueled by opposition to President Donald Trump.

The results of elections from Virginia to Washington state produced Democratic victories up and down the ballot, prompting both parties to take fresh looks at their plans for House and Senate campaigns next year.

For Republicans in swing districts, the failed campaign of GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie in Virginia was a reminder of the complex landscape ahead of them. Mr. Gillespie tried to walk a line by embracing Mr. Trump’s agenda but not campaigning alongside the GOP president.

He lost to Ralph Northam by 9 percentage points, the largest victory margin for a Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate since 1985. Mr. Northam notched even wider margins among women and suburban voters who will be central to key House battleground districts.

“It was a referendum on the president for many of them,” said Rep. Ryan Costello, a Republican who heard that message even in local races in his swing district in suburban Philadelphia. “You had a lot more people, a lot more people vote Democrat than they ever had before.”

Bryan Lanza, who worked for Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, said in an interview that the vote should be a wake-up call for Republicans who have not delivered on policy.

“Last night showed the voters are frustrated with the status quo and inaction,” Mr. Lanza said. “Republicans were punished at the polls, and it’s painful.”

House Republicans have long said that passing a tax overhaul was necessary for them to retain their House majority, but after Tuesday’s loss in Virginia some said that even that might not be sufficient.

“This really is a sort of do-or-die moment, in my view, in terms of holding the majority,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R., Okla.), referring to the tax legislation. “It doesn’t guarantee you success, but it’s a precondition for success.”

Democrats were surprised by the magnitude of their electoral wins, which overshadowed for now intraparty disagreements over how to recover from their bitter loss to Mr. Trump last year. Their wins came in both marquee races and more-obscure corners of the U.S. political map, which underscored for them the importance of fielding candidates even in long-shot districts to catch whatever political wave may form next year, strategists said.

In Virginia, Democrats not only swept the governor’s mansion and two other statewide offices, they are tantalizingly close to winning control of the House of Delegates. Democrats flipped at least 15 seats; if they pick up one more of the yet-to-be-settled races, Republicans would lose their majority. The last time Democrats ran the chamber was 1999.

In New Jersey, a Democratic victory in the gubernatorial race means the party will control both chambers of the state Legislature and the governor’s mansion, beginning in January.

The election of one new Democratic state senator in Washington state flipped party control of the chamber from Republican to Democratic.



In Georgia, Democrats won three state legislative special elections, including two in districts that were considered safely GOP. That cost Republicans their supermajority in the state Senate.

Political analysts and operatives from both parties caution against over reading the implications of one election for another especially when the next one is a year away.

Mr. Trump sought on Tuesday to pre-empt suggestions that the Virginia loss was a reflection on him, tweeting that Mr. Gillespie “did not embrace me or what I stand for.” The president’s associates continued the damage control Wednesday, with one calling reporters in for a briefing to say the result was “not about the president.”

But the impact of the president’s unpopularity was clear in the bitterly fought Virginia race. According to exit polls, 57% of Virginia voters said they disapproved of the job Mr. Trump was doing. Of those voters, 87% voted for Mr. Northam.

Asked what message they were sending with their vote, 34% said they were voting to express disapproval of the president—twice as many as said they were voting to express support for him.

“The level of intensity, the level of antipathy to Trump is so palpable,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D., Va.). “The desire of our base and independents troubled by Trump is just red-hot to do something. So when you offer them something, like an election, they came out in droves.”

There is historical precedent for the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races serving as a bellwether for the first midterm election of a new presidency. In 1994, 2006 and 2010—the last three times control of the House changed parties—the midterm result was foretold by the party that won the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races the year before.

Democrats need to flip 24 seats to take control of the House. Key targets are the 23 Republican-held districts where Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton beat Mr. Trump in 2016. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has said it aims to put 80 districts in play and has managed to recruit candidates in 75 of them so far.

“That strategy of building a huge battlefield with great candidates, even in really tough districts, is going to be crucial,” said Tyler Law, the committee’s spokesman.

In Virginia, Democrats made a concerted effort to field challengers for Republicans in the House of Delegates who had gone unopposed in the past. The candidate field was notably diverse, including the first openly transgender person to win state legislative office. They ended up winning at least 15 seats —far more than even the most optimistic partisans expected.

“It was beyond imaginable,” said Ben Wikler, Washington director of the liberal group As returns rolled in, he said, “it felt like the Fourth of July, with fireworks going off every few minutes.”

Some activists believe the grass-roots campaigns behind the state legislative candidates helped drive turnout statewide, perhaps compensating for the tepid support some progressives felt for Mr. Northam, a soft-spoken former army doctor. Stephanie Taylor, a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, called it a “reverse coattail” effect.

“We saw statewide candidates boosted by the energy of inspiring down-ballot candidates,” she said.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the GOP couldn’t afford to run away from a president so popular with the party base. “I will always say to any candidate in our party, the greatest enthusiasm in our party right now is for President Trump,” she said in an interview on Fox.

Many Republicans in swing districts will face the same conundrum that Mr. Gillespie confronted in Virginia. Can they run with Mr. Trump without risking alienating swing voters and can they run without him if they want to hold on to his supporters?

Some vulnerable Republicans said Wednesday that they would seek to brand themselves as independent operators not bound to Mr. Trump’s confrontational style and populism.

“People understand that I’m very much an independent and I’m going to continue being an independent and a moderate,” said Rep. John Katko, a New York Republican whose district Mrs. Clinton won last year.

Mr. Katko noted that one day earlier, he had been elected co-chairman of the Tuesday Group, a coalition of more than 50 centrist Republicans. “My brand, if you will, is well known to my local constituents,” he said.

Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said that GOP leaders will do their best to arm incumbents for battle in the face of political winds they already knew were blowing hard against them.

“I don’t think we needed last night’s results to tell us next year was going to be extremely competitive,” Mr. Hunt said. He added that the best way to counter the energy among anti-Trump Democratic voters is to invoke the person who energizes the GOP base: Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader who often figures in Republican campaign ads.

“We are going to make this election about Nancy Pelosi,” Mr. Hunt said.

—Peter Nicholas
and Joshua Jamerson contributed to this article.


Opinion: Think it can’t get worse than Donald Trump? Think again

November 8, 2017

Donald Trump’s election win a year ago was a watershed moment. It showed an utterly incompetent politician can become president by appealing to voters’ base instincts. But he could be just a harbinger of things to come.

Donald Trump on election night (Getty Images/C. Somodevilla)

Even after saying and typing the words President Donald Trump hundreds or even thousands of times since his stunning presidential election victory one year ago, it still feels awkward. And that’s the way it should be. Because it still is hard to stomach that a rabble-rouser like Trump, with a penchant for routinely speaking falsehoods and no political experience, could win the presidency in the most powerful country in the world through a campaign based on bigotry, misogyny and fear-mongering.

But while it is important to resist the natural tendency to normalize the Trump presidency, it is equally important to fully accept the fact, as difficult as this may be, that Donald Trump did win the election and Hillary Clinton lost it. It is crucial to own up to that reality and not blame Russian meddling, actions by former FBI Director James Comey or other real or imagined interferences for Hillary Clinton’s defeat and Trump’s win. To look for scapegoats and employ a whataboutism-strategy, a Trump specialty, may be understandable to cushion the hard reality of what happened on November 8, 2016, but it would be counterproductive for trying to prevent a repeat.

A disenfranchised electorate

A key element in Trump’s campaign was his insistence that the country was in bad shape and his promise that he would “Make America Great Again.” This was a daringly negative theme to run a presidential campaign on, especially because Trump repeatedly described, often erroneously, how bad things were in the country. And of course he almost always blamed others, like immigrants or Muslims, for the country’s problems.

Michael KniggeMichael Knigge is DW’s correspondent in Washington

But his negative description of the status quo in the country resonated with many voters because it rang true. That Trump hit a nerve with his depiction of the US as a country on a downward spiral is underscored by the fact that Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist from the small state of Vermont, was able to win 23 states against Hillary Clinton on a campaign based solely on individual donations. While Sanders is certainly not comparable in style and substance and seriousness, he addressed many of the same issues as Trump that plague ordinary Americans, from income inequality to an aging and often decrepit American infrastructure.

But the core point both Trump and Sanders made repeatedly was that when it comes to the political game being played in Washington, the cards are stacked against ordinary Americans. And the sentiment that political and business elites are looking out only for themselves, while many Americans have a hard time making ends meet, resonated with voters a year ago. And it still does today.

The populist appeal

It should not be a surprise when, according to a survey from the US Federal Reserve from last year, 44 percent of Americans said they do not have enough money to cover a $400 (€345) emergency expense. It should not be a surprise when, on an average day, 32 Americans are killed by guns. It should not be a surprise when 64,000 Americans were killed in 2016 by an opioid epidemic that has been ravaging the country for years — a crisis politicians seem incapable or unwilling or address, like many other very basic issues.

Trump sensed and ruthlessly exploited the widespread feeling of an American malaise and positioned himself, boasting his supposed business acumen, as the sole candidate not beholden to party politics capable of improving people’s lives. His basic claim to make America “win again” was not only outlandish, he also had no plan or intention to do it.

Still, it is not unlikely that he would win again if another election were held today, or that he could win a second term in 2020. Never mind that nine months into office he has not been able to pass a single major legislative initiative, never mind that his administration is scandal-ridden like no other in recent memory, never mind that he has not improved Americans’ lives.

That he is able to get away with all of that shows that there is no credible alternative, not in the Republican Party, which Trump hijacked and is increasingly turning into his own, and more importantly in the Democratic Party, which is deeply divided about its future course. It also shows the desperation and anger many Americans feel that they cast their lot with someone who operates so far outside the country’s political norms.

A darker alternative

Having said all that, we may in fact be lucky we are stuck with Trump. Sure, during Trump’s disastrous first nine months he has already wreaked havoc on many issues, from environmental policy to international relations. But on many major matters, from the botched travel ban to the failed Obamacare repeal, Trump is running a chaotic and deeply dysfunctional administration.

And now imagine a future candidate who shared Trump’s rabble-rousing instincts, but was not as impulsive and nor as chaotic, and could actually execute his pernicious agenda. If both major parties don’t wake up to fulfill the basic functions expected from elected officials — namely to provide core government services  we could find out sooner than we think.

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

November 6, 2017

The Associated Press

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

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

Image result for kevin brady, photos

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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