Brady Focused on Tax Reform; Health Care Talks Continue

CCH Tax Day Report

While a handful of House Senate lawmakers on Capitol Hill continue to hold out hope for health care reform after the House GOP health bill failed to achieve necessary Republican backing (TAXDAY, 2017/03/27, C.1), key House Republicans are returning their focus to tax reform. Party division, however, continues to plague Republicans, as some members are refusing to work together and President Trump is criticizing the division.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady’s, R-Tex., “main focus is on moving forward with pro-growth tax reform,” committee Communications Director Emily Schillinger told Wolters Kluwer on March 30. “Our goal is to markup legislation this spring,” she said.

Although there has been talk on Capitol Hill that House leadership is considering another opportunity to vote on the American Health Care Bill (AHCA) (HR 1628) to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has stated that there is no such scheduled vote. Additionally, the communications director for the House Energy and Commerce Committee has confirmed Chairman Greg Walden’s, R-Ore., position that there is no current plan to revive the AHCA.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also indicated that he is prepared to move on from previous health care initiatives to instead focus primarily on tax reform. “If we don’t repeal the (ACA) taxes, it is my position that we’re just going to have to leave those taxes over there with (the ACA) and reform the rest of the IRS tax code,” Ryan said in a March 30 press briefing. “But it does make tax reform harder,” he added.

White House

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters in a March 30 press briefing, however, that the administration sees a “dual-track” path forward for accomplishing reform of the Tax Code and health care.” I think the president would still like to see it done. And I think you can have a dual-track strategy. It’s not an either-or proposition,” Spicer said. He told reporters that the administration is in the “first stages of the tax reform process,” and expects the time line to extend over several months.

Meanwhile, Trump took to Twitter on March 30 to caution the conservative Freedom Caucus, a member base that was predominantly prepared to vote against the AHCA. “The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team – and fast,” Trump said in a tweet.

Trump has recently said he is prepared to work with Democrats on health care and tax reform after Republican division became clear, a move Ryan has cautioned him against. Ways and Means ranking member Richard Neal, D-Mass., said in a March 30 statement that he was disappointed in Ryan for discouraging Trump to work with Democrats. “For seven years, Democrats have said that if Republicans removed the threat of repeal [of the ACA ], we would gladly work with them on ways to improve coverage, lower costs, and strengthen consumer protections,” Neal said. “That offer still stands to any Republican who puts aside their insistence on repealing the Affordable Care Act,” he added.

Ryan, during Thursday’s press briefing, attempted to clarify his position of not wanting to work with Democrats by saying that they would never agree to repeal the ACA, something Republicans want to do. “They’re not going to help us repeal the ACA …that’s my point,” Ryan said.

Further, according to Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., more moderate Republicans of the Tuesday Group will “never” meet with the Freedom Caucus to discuss health care reform. Collins said he believes this reform initiative has “moved on” and will not be dealt with in 2017.

Ryan, however, has said he will not commit to a time line of when a revised health care bill may surface. “What I’m encouraging our members to do is figure out what solutions get us to a bill that everybody can vote for and pass…those are the kinds of conversations that are occurring.”

Senate

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, said on the Senate floor on March 30 that he hopes Republicans and Democrats will find a way to work together. As for Republican consensus, Hatch noted Republican disagreement on health care reform but remains optimistic about GOP agreement on tax reform.

Republicans in the House, Senate and Trump administration agree on 80 percent of the major tax reform issues, Hatch said. “A number of key and fundamental questions are answered in that 80 percent,” he added. “Still, that 20 percent of issues where we don’t necessarily agree is not insignificant.” What may prove helpful, Hatch noted, is that the Trump administration has indicated it intends to take an active role in the process (TAXDAY, 2017/03/27, T.1).

Hatch reiterated that the Senate will weigh in significantly on the tax reform process and will not merely pass the House’s bill (TAXDAY, 2017/02/02, C.1). “I don’t think it’ll surprise anyone to hear me say that I believe we’re going to need to have a robust and substantive tax reform process in the Senate,” Hatch said. It is not realistic that the Senate will take up and pass a House bill without contributing to the substance of the measure, he added.

By Jessica Jeane, Wolters Kluwer News Staff

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