The Senate voted late today to reopen the government, ending a three-day standoff that left hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed. The measure will keep the government funded through February 8. An agreement was reached after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised to allow an immigration bill to reach the floor next month. This deal falls short of the Democrats’ initial demand on the basics of a deal to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and protect “Dreamers” facing deportation. Fortunately, the bill also includes a six-year funding extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). As many as 20 states would have run out of CHIP money by February 1 if Congress failed to reach a deal. The bill must now be approved by the House of Representatives and signed by the President before becoming law.
Congress has until Friday, January 19 to reach an agreement on funding most of the federal government. There are four key issues that Congress is grappling with in its negotiations on a spending bill – protections for persons covered by the Deferred Action for Early Arrivals (DACA) program, extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), increases for the caps for defense and non-defense discretionary programs established by the Budget Control Act of 2011, and additional disaster relief funding. If agreement is not reached Congress may pass another temporary extension of funding or face a shutdown of the federal government.
On December 22, 2017 President Trump signed another stop gap funding bill into law that Congress passed the day before, barely averting a government shutdown. The current spending measure runs through January 19, 2018 and includes a waiver of the “Pay-as-you-go” budget rule. The “Pay-Go” rule would have required $136 billion in annual cuts to several mandatory programs (including $25 billion from Medicare alone) due to the new tax law’s additional $1.5 trillion in deficits over 10 years.
The House and Senate passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) on December 20, 2017 by votes of 224 to 201 and 51 to 48, respectively. President Trump signed the measure into law two days later. Though the final version of the legislation removed some of the objectionable provisions from prior versions, such as repeal of the medical expense deduction, the work opportunity tax credits, and the disabled access credit, The Arc strongly opposes this legislation. The TCJA repeals the individual mandate to have health insurance, leading to 13 million fewer people with coverage over 10 years, and increases the deficit by nearly $1.5 trillion over a decade, adding pressure to cut Medicaid and other critical programs while providing tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the most affluent and large corporations. See a summary of what is in the law from Politifact.
On December 13, House Republicans released a funding bill which would fund the government through Jan. 19, 2018. This continuing resolution (CR) includes large defense funding increases and leaves out the two Affordable Care Act market stabilization proposals (Alexander-Murray and Collins-Nelson) that Maine Senator Susan Collins had negotiated in exchange for her vote on the tax bill. While the bill does include a full five-year re-authorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and a two-year re-authorization for Community Health Centers, it proposes harmful offsets to Medicare and Medicaid to fund those provisions. The bill is not expected to garner the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate. The current CR expires on Dec. 22, setting the stage for a possible government shutdown if Congress fails to reach agreement on a funding bill.
Action on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has slowed this week with the announcement that the House would not be voting on a revised tax bill this week as had originally been planned. Instead, a House-Senate conference meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, December 13. It is expected to be a relatively brief meeting allowing the Conference Committee Members to make short statements while the actual negotiations continue in private. According to press reports, the major areas of disagreement are: the alternative minimum tax, pass-through business income, the corporate tax rate, the child tax credit, deductions for state and local taxes (referred to as SALT deductions), and individual tax brackets. The Conference Committee must also resolve the differences in the major provisions that are problematic for people with disabilities.
Advocates have more time to reach out to Members of Congress to oppose this harmful legislation. The Arc’s network is urged to participate in today’s National Call Day on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that The Arc is cosponsoring and to continue advocating throughout the week. See action alert above.
House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) over the weekend introduced a two-week continuing resolution (CR) that would extend all provisions in the previous CR until December 22. The measure also includes temporary aid for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The current CR runs though Friday, December 8. Chairman Frelinghuysen confirmed reports that the two-week CR is meant to allow lawmakers more time to reach a deal on increasing the spending caps for defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs. NDD programs include many programs that benefit people with disabilities such as education, housing, employment, and transportation programs.
The House and Senate are scheduled to vote on moving forward with a conference committee today to iron out the differences between the tax bills that both chambers passed. The House passed its bill on November 16 and the Senate narrowly passed (51 to 49) its bill in the early morning hours of December 2. Both bills, named the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, make significant changes to the tax code for both individuals and corporations. Both would add about $1.5 trillion to the deficit over 10 years, increasing pressure to cut Medicaid and other programs to pay for the tax cuts that disproportionately benefit upper income individuals and large corporations. The Senate bill goes further by effectively repealing the individual mandate for people to have health insurance which is projected to result in 13 million fewer people with health care coverage and increase premiums by 10%. Click here to read a description of the major differences in the House and Senate bills and click here to see the differences in key provisions for people with disabilities. The Arc’s statement on the Senate’s passage of its tax bill can be found here.
Advocates are urged to turn their attention to their representatives in the House to oppose the bills TODAY. The House and Senate need to pass the identical bills in order for a measure to become law. It is still possible that the House may simply pass the version the Senate passed on Saturday morning. If this were to happen, the President is all but certain to sign the measure and it will become law. Therefore, the time to act is now. See action alert.
The full House is expected to vote on its bill Wednesday or Thursday of this week. The Senate Finance Committee begins mark-up on its bill today.
The Senate Finance Committee released a description of its tax bill shortly after the House Ways and Means Committee approved its own bill on November 9. While The Arc is pleased to see that the Senate bill does not repeal the medical expense deduction that assists approximately 9 million Americans with high medical expenses to meet their needs, The Arc opposes the bill. The measure would substantially reduce revenue, paving the way for huge cuts in the programs people with disabilities rely on, and disproportionately benefits upper income earner and corporations. Click here to see a comparison between the House and Senate tax bills. See our shared principles for tax reform.