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This Bill Makes Us Sick: The GOP Tax Bill that Sneakily Attacks the ACA

The Senate is expected to vote as early as this afternoon on a tax reformation bill that benefits America's wealthiest at the expense of all others. Particularly important provisions in the tax bill for people living with or affected by HIV are the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s Individual Mandate and the potential to create pressure to cut social safety net programs like Medicare and Medicaid and discretionary funding such as for HIV Prevention and the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. Senate Republicans seek to pass the bill through reconciliation – a special process reserved for bills affecting federal spending, revenue and the debt limit that may only be used once per issue each fiscal year.  Under reconciliation rules, Senate Republicans would only need to 50 votes (with a tie-breaker vote from the Vice President) to pass the tax plan and avoid a Democratic filibuster that would require passage by 60 votes. Since the bill would affect the deficit (by adding approximately $1.5 trillion to it), Senate Republicans are able to use reconciliation rules to pass it without any bipartisan input.

Both the House and Senate versions of the tax bill propose to reduce the government’s revenue significantly by cutting taxes on households making more than $75,000 per year and on corporations, moving the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%. Twenty hours of debate on the bill began on Thursday morning and, as of the publication of this article, that debate was still on going.

On Thursday evening, Senate republicans hit a snag as the chamber’s Parliamentarian ruled that a mechanism included in the bill that would trigger automatic spending cuts or tax increases if certain economic projections were not met did not comply with the rules of reconciliation. At the same time, the Joint Committee on Taxation, a non-partisan committee of Congress, issued a report refuting the notion that the GOP tax cuts would pay for themselves and indicating that the GOP tax plan would add a staggering $1 trillion to the federal deficit, even after economic growth is factored in.

As a result of these developments, a number of Republican Senators began raising concerns about the degree to which the Senate tax plan would be increasing the deficit. However, at the moment, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has declared that he has the necessary votes to pass the Senate tax bill.

Both in an attempt to offset the loss of revenue created by their proposed tax cuts for the wealthy and as part of their continued efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Senate Republicans have included the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s Individual Mandate in this tax bill. The Individual Mandate is a central pillar of the ACA that requires U.S. residents to have health insurance or to pay a fine if they do not. If the Individual Mandate is repealed, fewer healthy people will buy health insurance plans, driving up the prices of insurance for those older, sicker Americans for whom health insurance is not a choice. The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that repealing the Individual Mandate would cause 13 million people to lose health insurance over the next ten years and would also raise insurance premiums by 10 percent each year.

Advocates are also concerned about this bill because it sets the stage for cuts to social safety net programs, like Medicare and Medicaid, in the future. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) underscored these concerns in an interview on Wednesday, saying that Senate Republicans had to cut both taxes and spending simultaneously to manage the deficit: “We have to generate economic growth which generates revenue, while reducing spending. That will mean instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future.” By adding so significantly to the deficit with the proposed tax cuts to the wealthy, Republicans are pre-justifying the cuts that they will seek to make in future appropriations bills.

AIDS United opposes this tax plan and has contacted every Senator to urge them to vote no on this disastrous bill. We are additionally working with other AIDS service organizations across the country to pressure Senators as well.  You can also take action by calling and emailing your own Senators and telling them that this bill hurts all Americans, especially those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. If the bill passes, the next step is for the House and Senate to set up a conference committee to produce a final identical version of the bill.  Both the House and Senate will need to approve the final version before moving forward.  Click here to oppose the bill. You can also watch the floor debate around the Senate tax plan here.


Posted By: AIDS United, Policy Department - Friday, December 01, 2017

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