Week Ending September 22, 2017
Senate May Vote on Devastating Health Care Bill Next Week
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated on Wednesday that he intends to hold a vote next week on legislation sponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that would repeal the Affordable Care Act and gut Medicaid. But the path to passage became more difficult for McConnell when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) announced on Friday that he would oppose the meaure. Sen. McCain’s opposition, along with the expected opposition by Susan Collins (R-ME), would still allow approval of Cassidy-Graham. One more Republican senator is needed to defeat the legislation.
The proposal is even more extreme than the bill defeated in the Senate this summer. But the proposal is being rushed to the floor with little time for the public or even senators to fully understand its impact. The legislation would:
- Convert Medicaid into a per capita cap grant in 2020, eliminating the current guarantee under which the federal government funds a specific share of state Medicaid costs. The per capita cap grant is designed to provide states with less and less funding each year, shifting more and more health care costs onto the states.
- Repeal the ACA’s Medicaid expansion and the tax credits that low- and moderate-income households receive to help purchase health coverage through an ACA exchange. In 2020, the funding for the expansion and tax credits would be reduced and given to the states in a block grant to fund health care services. The block grant would be phased out at the end of 2026.
- Eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions, allowing them to be charged higher premiums and allowing insurance companies to exclude coverage they need for their condition. It would also allow states to waive prohibitions on annual and lifetime limits in employer-sponsored coverage.
Based on previous analyses of repeal legislation, this proposal would cause as many as 32 million people to lose their health care coverage. The conversion of Medicaid into a per capita cap will shift billions in costs onto states, forcing states to reduce the number eligible for Medicaid, reduce Medicaid services such as long-term care, and reduce payments to providers. Because the cuts will get worse each year, states will be forced to reduce other public services such as education, transportation, law enforcement and more.
If the Senate approves the Cassidy-Graham proposal, it is likely that the House of Representatives will vote on it without delay. To help stop this legislation, call your representative and senators to urge them to oppose this bill.
Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Plan Paves Way for New Tax Cuts
The new fiscal year for the federal government starts on October 1 but Congress still hasn’t agreed to an overall budget plan to guide decision making. Earlier, the House Budget Committee approved a plan to create a fast-track process to approve tax cuts for the wealthy and large profitable corporations paid for with cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, education and other vital public services. But Republican leaders have been unable to muster the votes needed to pass the plan in the full House.
Now the Senate Budget Committee is expected to unveil its budget plan and it too is expected to fast -track a plan for costly new tax cuts paid for with cuts to domestic spending. Senate Republican leaders plan to move a budget resolution through the Senate Budget Committee next week and to the Senate floor for a vote the following week.
While the details are not fully known, this resolution is expected to include fast-track “reconciliation” instructions that would allow a $1.5 trillion tax cut package (or larger) to pass in the Senate with a simple majority, rather than a 60-vote super-majority often required for controversial bills. The new, large tax cut is also expected to result in an increase in the national debt and would not be required to be offset with other revenue increases.
GOP leaders claim their plan to cut taxes will pay for itself through expanded economic activity, a claim that many economists and Democrats vigorously dispute. Unlike the House plan, the Senate budget proposal would not include specific reconciliation instructions to fast-track cuts in entitlement programs like Medicaid, Medicare, or SNAP (food stamps). However, the Senate budget may still assume large cuts to entitlement programs over 10 years, in addition to deep cuts to most other domestic spending programs. If the Senate plan passes, it will likely revive efforts to pass a budget plan in the House and set the stage for a vote on tax cuts later this fall.
The Trump administration and GOP House and Senate leaders say they will release the long-awaited details of their tax plan next week. Leaders say they want to pass the tax cut plan by the end of the calendar year.
Short-Term FAA Extension Almost Certain as Skepticism Over Privatization Proposal Mounts
Congress faces a September 30 deadline to extend Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs and is all but certain to pass a short-term extension next week to avoid shutting the agency down. Debate continues over the length of the extension – Republican leadership aims for a shorter extension while Democratic leaders are pressing for six months.
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) continues to struggle to garner enough votes in the House for his FAA privatization proposal, the AIRR Act (H.R. 2997). House leadership planned to send the bill to the Senate before leaving for their August recess, but opposition within Republican ranks has kept the legislation from the floor.
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