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House Poised to Pass Tax Bill Without Mandate Repeal

Posted on November 16, 2017 by David van den Berg, Asha Glover

The House of Representatives is expected to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) on November 16 without a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, while the Senate Finance Committee has added the mandate repeal into the measure it continues to mark up. 

House Ways and Means Committee member Tom Reed, R-N.Y., said November 15 that he’s surprised Senators decided to insert the mandate repeal into their bill, given the failure of legislation in the upper chamber to repeal the Affordable Care Act earlier this year.

“There was some discussion about having individual mandate repeal here before the Senate took action, and I’m glad we decided as a body not to do that,” Reed said. “From my perspective it was good in the House to retain our discussion just on tax policy and showing that you can deliver tax reform within the $1.5 trillion number just by limiting yourself to the tax code.”

Reed said that if the Senate passes its tax bill, he’s confident the House would pass a tax reform bill containing the mandate repeal, given that the House has already voted to repeal the mandate and the healthcare reform law.

The House chose not to include repeal of the mandate in its bill because it didn’t want to “make tax reform harder than it already is,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., told CNBC November 15. “We’re seeing what the Senate can do. If the Senate can get it through the committee, get it through the floor, then we’ll meet them in conference and we’ll assess at that time.”

The House began debate on H.R. 1 late November 15, setting up lawmakers for a vote the following day. The House Rules Committee voted 8 to 3 to consider the bill under a closed rule, blocking lawmakers from offering any amendments to the measure unless they are recommended by the committee reporting the bill. The House voted 235 to 191 to adopt the rule.

The reported rule also includes instructions to waive all points of order against consideration of the bill and provisions in the bill, and waives clause 5(b) of House Rule XXI, which requires a three-fifths vote for legislation that includes a tax rate increase.

None of the 140 amendments offered to the bill were made in order, including one offered by Republican Study Committee Chair Mark Walker of North Carolina to eliminate the ACA’s individual mandate, and another offered by Ways and Means Committee member Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., that would have restored the state and local tax deduction.

Ways and Means Committee member Ron Kind, D-Wis., told Tax Analysts he expects the House bill to pass, and said there are lots of “bad policy choices” in it. He said if the Senate passes a tax bill, the question at that point becomes whether “House Republicans can swallow a lot of the bad stuff” in the upper chamber’s proposal, including full repeal of the state and local tax deduction and the “expiring individual tax provisions.”

“I think we all know whatever the Senate passes will be the final bill,” he said.

Kind ripped the move by Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, to modify his chair's mark to make individual rate cuts temporary. “We know this game that gets played around here,” he said. “What they’re doing is creating a new extenders bill.”

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