for the week ending November 3, 2017
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Scrambling for dollars and bills whose content far from matches their titles would mark this week’s work. And if you thought that ObamaCare is set to be addressed sometime in the future you would be wrong; two bills passed the House this week that would change the healthcare law by reducing the revenues built into the law and would so lower the deficit and another that removes an agency charged with finding Medicare savings that would increase the deficit.
It is the mandatory payments, taxes on investment income, fees on medical device manufacturers, mandatory coverage, and a tax on high-end insurance policies that financially fuels the Affordable Care Act to total around $800 billion that is the target of HR 3922, a bill with the curious title of The CHAMPION Act. HR 3922 would reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion over the 2018-2027 period basically on the back of ObamaCare. Eyeballing those funds has little or nothing to do with providing healthcare but rather is needed to meet Senate rules to pass the forthcoming tax reform / cut bill released this week to markup and expected to have a vote before the Thanksgiving break.
The bill also cuts by $400 million, (nearly half of last year spending) the Prevention and Public Health Fund was created in ObamaCare, operates largely through the Centers for Disease Control and aims to support efforts to preventive and public health programs improve health by stopping smoking, mental health, and exercise programs.
HR 849, the Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act of 2017, does nothing to protect seniors access to Medicare and as passed in the House promises to increase the deficit by increasing direct spending by $17.5 billion over ten years.
Tax Reform / Cuts –
The important thing to remember about the forthcoming bill is that nothing promoted at this time is guaranteed to be in the bill when it reaches the floor before the Thanksgiving break. There are tensions from high-tax states about repealing the current deduction for state and local taxes although there has been signals that those provisions will not be in the bill but as it stands now taxpayers will continue deducting for real estate property taxes but they may be prohibited from deducting their state income tax but there may be a cap on that deduction.
Currently corporate tax rates would be reduced from 35% to 20% but the change would only be good for two years, another bow to Senate reconciliation requirements needed to get the bill through the Senate with no Democrat votes. Other tax brackets the bill offers is the lowest at 12% two others at $25% and 30% and very high income earners would still pay 39.5% but those taxes would likely be offset by repeal of the Alternative Minimum Tax passed decades ago to stop high earners from avoiding taxes. The AMT was not indexed for inflation and so as inflation grows and income also grow lower earnings have also come under the AMT.
At this time the standard deduction would be doubled. (Individuals $12,000 and joint filers earning up to $24,000)The deduction for mortgage interest would stop at a $500,000 mortgage, the child tax credit is raised from $1000 to $1600, the estate tax would be repealed after 6 years, and student loan interest and extreme me3dical expenses would not be deductible.
Trump, in the way he has of tossing monkey wrenches into congressional plans, has said that the individual mandate required under ObamaCare should be repealed freeing up the necessary funds to really cut taxes. Republican bill writers see adding that to the bill as a move that could cause the bill to fail and, of course, HR 3922 already takes that step.
Those Investigations –
Let’s remember that the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, The House Intelligence Committee and the House Oversight Committee are supposed to be investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 and future elections and could drift into whether or not there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian hacking and disruption efforts.
Well, we now know that Russia did intervene in the election and did so in a fashion that favored Trump over Clinton. With the revelation that Special Counsel Mueller has had a former Trump advisory, George Papadopoulos, providing information related to who if anyone was in communication with the Russians on their effort to influence the election the investigation has pretty much moved beyond the Senate and House committee investigations although they could continue in that direction running the risk of complicating Mueller’s strategy.
Testimony from officials from Twitter, Google, and Facebook testified before the Senate Intl. Committee and released many ads place by Russian hackers or robots that are pretty obviously meant to influence voters and do so away from supporting Clinton and favoring Trump. While there is no doubt of what Russia was up to we are still waiting for Senate and House Republican leadership to come up with legislation that will prevent that happening again.
We here at TheWeekinCongress.com speculate with others that the introduction of Papadopoulos foretells more to come on the collusion investigation because it is likely he was wired and had conversations with other Trump officials who now are probably trying hard to remember if they talked to him and what they said. On a FOX broadcast Trump Chief of Staff General John Kelly said he thinks the investigation is coming to an end. We disagree.
Senators spent most of the week working off the backlog of appointments, mostly increases in rank for Armed Forces members.
In addition to the above mentioned bills the House handled some land issues, added South Carolina to the regional peanut board, passed a bill supposedly aiming to prevent forest fires but appears to have some provisions that exclude the normal environmental regulations possibly opening the door to forest clear cutting. Another House bill authorizes the State Department to revoke a passport for anyone connected to terrorism or who is a terrorist.
Finally the House got smart on preserving Helium deposits and reserves since current policy would shift the market dominance from the US to other countries with Helium deposits.
Disingenuous Bill Titles
Magic Mondays (Video)
Political ‘Education’ (Video)
The senate and House are adjourning and will return to work on Monday, November 6th. The next edition of TheWeekinCongress.com will be published Thursday evening November 9th.
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