health-care

Opinion: The GOP Tax Bill — All Hat and No Rabbit
Even passing no legislation might be a better option

From left, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady and Majority Whip Steve Scalise celebrate during a news conference after the chamber passed the GOP tax bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

All politics is state and local.

That update of Tip O’Neill’s dictum is inspired by the Republican tax bill. The legislation that passed the House on Thursday eviscerates the deduction for state and local taxes and the current Senate version, which just emerged from the Finance Committee, eliminates the write-off entirely.

10 Things to Watch as the Tax Bill Moves Forward
House passage just the first step

President Donald Trump arrives for a meeting with the House Republican Conference in the Capitol on Thursday to discuss the GOP’s tax bill. White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, far left, and House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving, foreground, also appear. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House passage of a tax code rewrite Thursday was just the first in a multistep process. Many changes are expected before a bill reaches President Donald Trump’s desk.

First, the Senate has to prove it can pass a tax overhaul after failing to do so on health care.

Hot Start With Trump 'Pep Rally' Burns Out as Tax Bill Cruises
Before passing tax bill, GOP members gush about president

President Donald Trump, accompanied by his chief of staff John Kelly, arrives at the Capitol to speak to House Republicans before a floor vote on a GOP-crafted tax overhaul bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Two fireplaces outside the House chamber told the story Thursday a few minutes before members streamed in to vote on a sweeping tax bill. Orange embers were still just visible in both beneath scorched logs and ash. For Republicans, what had started with a white-hot visit by President Donald Trump ended with the anti-climactic passage of their tax plan.

But there was nothing anti-climactic a short time earlier in the basement of the Capitol, where House GOP members gather weekly as a group. They scurried in — mostly on time, with a few notable exceptions — for the presidential visit, and many emerged just before noon strikingly giddy about the scene during the president’s roughly 20 minutes of remarks.

Van Hollen Urges Freedom Caucus to Protect Medicare
‘Sequestration would harm Americans across the country’

Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen is reaching out to the Freedom Caucus on automatic spending cuts. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Freedom Caucus should raise the issue of automatic spending cuts that would occur to the Medicare program should Congress pass a sweeping tax overhaul, Sen. Chris Van Hollen wrote in a Wednesday letter to the group.

“While I did not always agree with Freedom Caucus positions when I served in the House of Representatives, the Freedom Caucus has been a strong supporter of debt reduction,” the Maryland Democrat wrote.

HHS Pick at Odds With Trump’s Rhetoric on Drug Prices
Alex Azar previously led Eli Lilly’s U.S. operations

Alex Azar is President Donald Trump’s nominee for Health and Human Services secretary. (Screenshot/Veeva Systems/YouTube)

President Donald Trump’s tweet Monday announcing former pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar as his choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services boasted that Azar “will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!”

But Azar, who led drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co.’s United States operations from 2012 until earlier this year, has contributed significantly to the pharmaceutical industry political spending that the president has decried.

CBO: Tax Plan Could Cut Medicare By $25 Billion
OMB would be required to order sequestration 15 days from end of session

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., leaves the Capitol after the last votes of the week on October 5, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Some members are concerned the GOP tax overhaul would lead to mandatory multi-billion dollar cuts to programs such as Medicare.

There’s not enough mandatory spending up for grabs under current law to execute the full automatic, across-the-board spending cuts to entitlement programs that would be triggered if Republicans push through deficit-increasing tax cuts by year’s end.

From Asia, Trump Presses Tax Writers on Individual Mandate
Neither House nor Senate GOP overhaul bill includes repeal language

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., speaks with President Donald Trump as they arrive for the Senate Republicans’ policy lunch in the Capitol on Oct. 24. Trump tweeted Monday from Asia that he wants tax legislation to repeal the individual health insurance mandate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump on Monday again pressed House and Senate Republican lawmakers to use tax overhaul legislation to end the 2010 health care law’s individual insurance mandate, something neither chamber’s plan includes.

Tweeting just before midnight in Manila, Philippines, Trump laid down a marker for House and Senate Republicans as they continue work on their separate bills. The president wrote that he is “proud of the Rep. House & Senate for working so hard on cutting taxes {& reform.} We’re getting close!”

Trump to Nominate New HHS Secretary Alex Azar
Former pharmaceutical president vocal Obamacare opponent

Tom Price (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Trump announced on Twitter he plans to nominate Alex Azar to be the next secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Azar will be “a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices,” Trump wrote in his tweet announcing the coming nomination.

Ready or Not, House Republicans Set Vote on Tax Overhaul
But floor delay remains a possibility as GOP leaders wrangle votes

Speaker Paul D. Ryan said the health care debate taught him not to set an “artificial deadline” for passing legislation. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The scenario is all too familiar: House Republican leaders schedule a floor vote on a major legislative priority and exude confidence the bill will pass despite a chorus of rank-and-file concern. 

GOP leaders insist the tax overhaul they plan to vote on this week is different from the health care bill they had to pull from the floor this spring. But the reality is they are still wrangling the 218 votes needed to pass their tax measure. A possible repeat scenario of the health care debacle looms.

Individual Mandate Repeal Likely Off Table for House Tax Bill

Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, left, and Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., ranking member, concluded their Ways and Means Committee markup of the Republicans' tax reform plan on November 9, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Repealing the individual mandate to buy health insurance, eyed by tax writers as a way to offset the costs of their tax overhaul legislation, does not appear to still be a candidate for inclusion in the House’s evolving measure. 

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady on Thursday suggested that repeal of the individual mandate will not make it into the tax overhaul the House plans to vote on next week.