Tax Cuts, Budgets and More Fill Congressional To-Do List this Season
By: Michael Petruzzelli
Manager, Policy and Advocacy
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is not lost on leaders here in Washington, D.C. As of this writing: Congressional leaders negotiated a deal to avert a government shutdown; a conference committee has formed to hammer out differences between the House and Senate’s tax reform bills; and appropriators are quietly working on an end-of-year health care spending package that could include reauthorization of Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicare extenders and more.
KEEPING THE GOVERNMENT OPEN
On Thursday evening, the House and Senate both approved a two-week spending measure to keep the government open, at level funding, through December 22, 2017. There will need to be another such agreement to fund the government into the new year and beyond. This is the first of what is believed to be two or three short-term spending deals before House and Senate agree on a long-term spending plan in 2018.
TAX REFORM BILL
The short-term approach to government funding could allow legislators enough time to continue work on the tax reform package. Earlier this week, the House and Senate each appointed members to serve on the conference committee – a collection of legislators directed to reconcile differences in the House and Senate versions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Major differences exist between the packages, including:
- Repeal of the medical expense deduction which keeps costs low for those with costly chronic conditions; and
- Repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, a key component of the Affordable Care Act that helps lower premiums and fund comprehensive insurance plans that include mental health and addiction services;
- The structure of income tax brackets in each bill, and more.
Should the conference committee agree on a single package, the full House and Senate would each have to approve the final language and provisions before sending the bill to President Trump for his signature. It remains to be seen how the final version of the bill would affect votes in the House and Senate, the latter of which approved its version of the bill by just two votes. Key votes to watch include Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Bob Corker (R-TN) and the winner of Alabama’s special election.
END OF YEAR SPENDING PACKAGE
In addition to budget deals and tax reform, appropriators in the House and Senate are also working to come together on a year-end spending package to fund key health care programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program, tax extenders for Medicare, funding for community health centers and more. The topline numbers and scope of the package is still unclear.
The National Council has been working hard to ensure key legislative priorities make the final package. The National Council will continue monitoring this whirlwind of congressional activity and update its members with the latest information when it becomes available.