Policy Week Ahead, September 25, 2017
It’s an extremely busy week on the Hill. Both the House and Senate are back in session, with Republicans focused on their ACA repeal bill and latest tax giveaway plan. However, Congress is also facing key deadlines, including funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and community health centers, among other urgent priorities.
Republicans released an updated Graham-Cassidy-Heller repeal bill yesterday. The new version is even crueler than the last because it gives states an even greater ability to undo protections for people with pre-existing conditions. And, as in other versions, no state will be able to keep the programs they set up under the ACA, and no state will receive any funding after 2026. Every state will be hurt, with millions losing access to care, and deep funding cuts that include the end to Medicaid as we know it.
Senate Republicans still working on votes for Graham-Cassidy-Heller this week. But if they fail, the fight isn’t over – Republicans could simply pass new budget reconciliation instructions in October that renew their ability to repeal the ACA with only 51 votes. The only difference is that Republicans wanted to use the reconciliation process to jam through tax reform in the new fiscal year. They would have to tie ACA repeal to tax cuts going forward if they wanted to do both without any Democratic support.
A better path would be for Republicans to join Democrats to pass bipartisan legislation to strengthen the ACA marketplaces and expand access to affordable healthcare. Senators from both parties were close to releasing just such a bill before Republicans decided to try to force through Graham-Cassidy-Heller instead. Republicans should immediately return to our bipartisan effort.
The Trump White House and Congressional Republicans are also set to unveil their latest tax plan on Wednesday. The plan won’t be fully fleshed out, but reports suggest that Republicans will yet again proposemassive giveaways for corporations and the 1% at the expense of everyone else. Their rollout will likely include:
- A giant tax cut for big corporations.
- The creation of a new “Trump loophole” for millionaire business owners.
- Lower income tax rates for the wealthiest individuals.
- An enormous price tag – potentially to the tune of trillions of dollars – and budgetgimmicks to try to mask it.
Again, because Republicans are still planning on trying to force their tax plan through on a party-line vote, they’ll first need to pass budget reconciliation instructions through both the House and Senate. Expect Senate Republicans to quickly advance their budget bill as soon as they vote on (or defeat) ACA repeal – and, most likely, some big fights to come in October.
Other Urgent Legislation
Congress is working to reauthorize the FAA this week. Many Democrats are opposing House version because it doesn’t address urgent priorities like SCHIP or DACA, despite including a number of other unrelated provisions. An initial, fast-tracked vote on a six-month FAA bill failed in the House last night, though the bill will likely pass later in the week. The Senate must also consider the reauthorization package before FAA funding expires on Saturday.
Congressional Republicans do not yet have concrete plans for funding SCHIP. While states fortunately have enough money to continue providing health insurance to low-income children through at least the end of the year, funding this critical program must be a priority. (In the Senate, a bipartisan SCHIP bill is on the table, but hasn’t even been brought to committee yet – more on that proposal here.) Congress must also renew $3.6 billion funding for community health centers, which treat more than 25 million Americans annually.
Meanwhile, Democrats will continue to keep up the pressure on DACA, including by pushing to tie significant legislation to the DREAM Act. And Puerto Rico will need additional support to recover from extraordinary damage from Hurricane Maria. Puerto Ricans are Americans and should immediately receive the same emergency aid resources that any state would receive under a disaster declaration.