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House Group Pushes Individual Mandate Repeal Onto Tax Bill

Posted on November 15, 2017 by Asha Glover, David van den Berg

Following the Senate’s lead, an influential group of House Republicans is tying earlier attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate to the House’s tax reform effort.

Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., chairman of the Republican Study Committee, filed an amendment November 14 that would repeal the mandate and “restart the process of repealing Obamacare,” according to a statement.

“Adding the repeal of the individual mandate to tax reform could be the most consequential step this Congress takes to date in fulfilling our promises to the American people to both reform the tax code and repeal Obamacare,” Walker said. “It appears the Senate is keeping its promises. The House should do the same.”

Walker’s amendment, which is backed by the Study Committee’s steering committee, came on the heels of a push by members of the Senate Finance Committee to add individual mandate repeal to their version of the tax reform effort.

The day before, President Trump tweeted that lawmakers in both chambers should eliminate the ACA’s individual mandate in order to cut the top tax rate to 35 percent, with “all of the rest going to middle income cuts.”

News of Walker’s amendment came the same day that the House Rules Committee held an emergency meeting to consider the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), in a bid to give lawmakers more time to debate the measure before a planned floor vote later in the week.

Despite the Rules Committee moving up the meeting, which was originally scheduled for November 15, Republican leaders still intend to hold a floor vote on the tax reform bill November 16, according to a spokesperson for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady, R-Texas., who helped draft the bill and revised it with a manager’s amendment November 9, does not plan to offer another amendment, according to a committee spokesperson.

Offered Amendments

At press time November 14, seven other amendments to the bill had been offered from the following House members:

  • Ways and Means Committee member Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., to restore the state and local tax deduction in full;

  • Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, to strike section 1302, which applies to the mortgage interest deduction, and offset any costs with an appropriate increase to the corporate tax rate;

  • Marc A. Veasey, D-Texas, to add provisions that provide a refundable credit for household items purchased by grandparents for grandchildren living in poverty, refundable credit against tax costs associated with naturalization, and incentives for greater access to fresh, healthy food;

  • Theodore E. Deutch, D-Fla., to provide a refundable tax credit of up to $5,000 for individuals making less than $50,000 per year and couples making less than $100,000 per year for legal expenses paid to establish guardianship of a family member with disabilities;

  • John Lewis, D-Ga., to exclude Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards (currently a maximum of $5,920) from gross income so that volunteers can apply the full value of the award toward higher education;

  • Lewis, to allow for charitable contributions of some literary, musical, or artistic compositions to donate their work to nonprofit institutions; and

  • Lewis, to delay the effective date of H.R. 1 until the Joint Committee on Taxation completes an analysis that determines there will not be a decline in charitable giving over the next 10 years.

SALT Deduction a Major Sticking Point

Should tax legislation make it to a conference committee to resolve differences between the House and Senate measures, Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., a Ways and Means Committee member, identified two major sticking points for some House members: the Senate’s plan to fully repeal the state and local tax deduction and a planned one-year delay on a reduction in the corporate tax rate.

“A lot of these issues that we’re identifying, and the differences between the House and Senate bills — they’re bridgeable,” he said. “These proposals generally follow the same framework and this is about bridging the differences that you have to do just based on dials and other issues.” 

Reed also said he’s confident the public commitment Brady made to preserve the itemized property tax  deduction will be met to secure the necessary 218 votes to clear the bill.

“If you look at the math, to get to 218 [votes], there needs to be some recognition this policy cannot be totally eliminated,” he said. 

Fellow Ways and Means Committee member Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., also said the state and local property tax deduction is a high priority. 

“I know for sure we’re going to hold firm here in the House on the property tax deduction,” he said. “It’s important for high-tax states but truthfully, it’s important all throughout the country.”

Follow Asha Glover (@AshaSGlover) and David van den Berg on Twitter (@TAtaxDavidVDB) on Twitter for real-time updates.