Editorial July 8, 2016

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

The push to bring all necessary bills to the floor before a long break is common, particularly in the House. Committees empty their bills to the floor and most are handled under suspension of the rules requiring a 2/3rds vote but most are passed by voice vote after the parties have agreed.

It is here that we see the bulk of and diversity of legislation Congress addresses to include naming and renaming federal buildings along wih all he spending bills.

With all those pressing matters at hand one wonders why, yet again, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is looking for a vote on S 764 to defund Planned Parenthood unless it certifies no funds are going to abortion. You would think the issue is in the past what with Planned Parenthood having been exonerated and the person who videotaped a meeting with a Planned Parenthood official was arrested because of that video.

More to the point, though, is that the opinion of Planned Parenthood is high in national polls in which significant majorities have a favorable view of the organization and want the government to fund it. In the absence of popular support and a certain veto from the White House this bill can only be a messaging bill to that minority of the country who are opposed to abortion beyond incest, rape and the health of the mother.

While the Senate worked on defunding Planned Parenthood the House got into American’s healthcare. HR 1270 that appears to makes sense by not requiring a doctor visit in order to buy over-the-counter drugs is simple on the surface but as is often said, the devil is in the details. At issue here is not the common sense that you should not have to pay to see a doctor just to buy some Aleve. That is the smoke screen. What the bill really does is remove products eligible for purchase under a pre-tax Flexible Spending Account (FSA) from any such requirements.  As bill opponents pointed out, ‘Under current law, any expenses paid for medicine or drugs are only deductible as a medical expense if the medicine or drug is prescribed by a physician.  However, under H.R. 1270, over-the-counter, nonprescription medicines like allergy medication, aspirin, or basic pain relievers could now be purchased (with FSA dollars and take the tax break) without a physician’s order.  This bill disproportionately benefits higher-income individuals, who are more likely to have an FSA.’

Whatever the contorted logic the bill supposes if it is made into law it would result in $4.1 billion in lost revenue according to CBO.

It’s complicated; Bills within Bills.

Here is an opinion on some of the House healthcare efforts from House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. Reading Hoyer’s opinion and in the absence of any healthcare reform legislation that House Leadership is not filling in the details of until 2017 when they hope to own the White House and the Hill. These bills may well demonstrate what healthcare reform would look like if Republicans have their way.

“The text of H.R. 5445, which is included in H.R. 1270, makes three changes to current rules governing Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) that amount to tax-breaks for higher-income individuals.  First, the bill allows spouses to make catch-up contributions to a single account.  Under current law, if both spouses are age 55 or older and otherwise eligible to make HSA contributions, those catch-up contributions must be made to two separate accounts.  Second, while under current law medical expenses can only be reimbursed if they were incurred after establishment of an HSA, the bill adds a 60-day grace period in which medical expenses incurred prior to the HSA’s establishment can be reimbursed.  Finally, the bill would nearly double the limit for HSA contributions to the maximum out-of-pocket limit for high-deductible plans.  The rule changes in H.R. 5445 will cost an estimated $20.5 billion over the next 10 years.

“These measures would be offset with ACA subsidy recapture, otherwise known as “true up.”  Upon filing taxes, those eligible for premium assistance tax credits are required to reconcile their actual income for the tax year with their estimated income used to calculate their premium assistance tax credits, and either receive a refund or owe an additional tax obligation.  Under the ACA, if the credit was overpaid, there is a maximum overpayment that can be recovered through a tax return for households with income up to 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).   Under H.R. 1270, the maximum recovery amount would be increased for those with incomes between 250 – 400% of the FPL from $2,500 to $3,000 for families between 250 and 300% FPL and no repayment protection for families above 300% FPL in a given year.  With the inclusion of these true up changes, CBO and JCT estimate the package would reduce the deficit by $2.17 billion over the next 10 years, and would result in 130,000 individuals becoming uninsured.

“While Republicans argue that H.R. 1270 will increase flexibility for consumers in dealing with health care costs, the bill is nothing more than another Republican attempt to undermine the ACA.  Exposing lower income families to greater financial risk in order to expand tax breaks for wealthier individuals does not advance the goal of making health care more affordable for Americans.”


On the Issues

Emails

‘WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers on Thursday used blunt testimony from the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to try to build a case that Hillary Clinton repeatedly lied to the public and Congress as she defended her use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state.’ New York Times

Trump

,Donald Trump’s private meeting Thursday with Senate Republicans — designed to foster greater party unity ahead of the national convention in Cleveland — grew combative as the presumptive presidential nominee admonished three senators who have been critical of his candidacy…’ Washington Post

Education v Prison

‘State and local spending on prisons and jails has grown three times as much over the past three decades as spending on public education for preschool through high school, according to a new analysis of federal data by the U.S. Education Department.’ Washington Post


Foreign Affairs

Boeing and Iran

“Boeing, the massive U.S. airline manufacturer, wants to get back into Iran. House Republicans appear increasingly reluctant to allow that to happen. On Thursday, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade debated three bills aimed at stopping Boeing’s sale of passenger jets to Iran.” Foreign Policy Magazine

The Effort in Libya

‘The Obama administration is throwing its weight behind Libya’s new UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), laying out a $56 million aid plan for the coming months.The State Department plans to reallocate $35 million in current and prior year funding to help the political transition in Tripoli ‘ Al Monitor

Afghanistan

‘US president Barack Obama announced that he will withdraw about 1,400 US troops from Afghanistan by next year, a far smaller number than was planned, for a force of about 8,400. There are about 9,800 US military personnel (plus around 6,000 coalition troops) in Afghanistan that were to stay throughout most of 2016’ – Jane’s Defence Weekly


Magic Mondays

with Rep. Marc Pocan


Political Junkie News

Origin of Party Symbols