Senators clash over changes to tax bill

By Ed Adamczyk and Daniel Uria  |  Updated Nov. 15, 2017 at 6:23 PM
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Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Republican and Democratic Senators clashed over changes made to the Senate's proposed tax reform bill during a markup session Wednesday.

Democrats, including Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, criticized Republicans' attempt to include a repeal of the requirement that all uninsured Americans purchase coverage under the Affordable Care Act as well as permanent tax cuts for corporations but temporary tax cuts for individuals.

"This bill seems to get worse by the hour," Wyden said. "This is not just another garden variety attack on the Affordable Care Act, this is a repeal of that law."

Senate finance committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, released the newest details of the plan late Tuesday, saying, "we not only ease the financial burdens already associated with the mandate, but also generate additional revenue to provide more tax relief to individuals."

"We'll hear claims that the inclusion of the individual mandate tax relief is some kind of process foul and that we've somehow expanded the scope of the markup by including it in the modification," Hatch said. "As we reiterated several times yesterday, the individual mandate is a tax."

Loss of the mandate would save more than $300 billion over 10 years, but would leave 13 million Americans without health insurance by 2027, the Congressional Budget Office said in an analysis this month. It could win the support of the GOP's most conservative senators and ensure approval in a Senate vote along party lines.

This week, President Donald Trump called on Congress to include the mandate in its tax overhaul. The Senate's version accomplishes the GOP's goal of ending the mandate by 2019, as well as further lowering some of the individual tax rates.

Still under discussion, though, are the fate of child tax credit figures, 529 savings plans for children born before 2026 and other features that would need to be reconciled with a House version of the legislation, which does not address the ACA mandate.

Under the Senate's version of the bill, the tax changes for individuals expire in 2025, although modifications for businesses are permanent.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., spoke in opposition of the tax package, saying it unfairly benefits corporations by providing permanent tax cuts while leaving out "pass-through entities" such as sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies and S Corporations, whose owners pay taxes through individual returns and at individual income-tax rates.

"I have no problems in making all American businesses competitive globally," Johnson said. "This isn't anti-big corporation at all. When you're going to do a tax reform, you have to treat them equitably so they can maintain their competitive position here at home as we're making them competitive globally."

Johnson said he refuses to vote for the tax package, jeopardizing Republicans' chances of passing the measure as they can lose no more than two votes without receiving additional votes from Democrats.

"If they can pass it without me, let them," he said. "I'm not going to vote for this tax package."

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