The House and Senate are in session this week.
For those who missed it, FreedomWorks chatted with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) last week about fundamental tax reform and the projected timeline for action. The thinking, as the Chairman indicated, is that the House and Senate would come to an agreement in advance of action on the floor, likely later in the year, after the month-long August recess.
The House will begin the week Monday with a slate of ten bills on the suspension calendar, all of which are coming to the floor through the Energy and Commerce Committee and deal with energy issues.
The remainder of the week is mostly about health care, as the House finally begins to take action on the "third phase" of its health care agenda — legislation that presumably couldn’t be included in the American Health Care Act because of constraints of reconciliation.
On Tuesday, the House will consider the Verify First Act, H.R. 2581, sponsored by Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.). The bill would require verification of the legal status of a recipient for advance payment of ObamaCare’s health insurance premium tax credit, prior to January 1, 2020, and the American Health Care Act’s premium tax credit, after January 1, 2020 and assuming it passes Congress.
The House will also take up the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, S. 1094, sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). The bill, which passed the Senate by a voice vote on June 6, would create the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and, among other things, promotes the protection of whistleblowers by incentivizing those in positions of power to punish misconduct. It also codifies President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on whistleblower protection at the VA.
The House will, on Wednesday, consider the Veterans Equal Treatment Ensures Relief and Access Now (VETERAN) Act, H.R. 2372, introduced by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas). The bill would codify an IRS regulation that allows premium tax credits to be used by veterans to purchase health insurance coverage on the individual market if they opt not to receive health care through the VA.
On Thursday, the House will take up the Protecting Access to Care Act, H.R. 1215, introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). The bill brings limits on medical malpractice torts in federal courts, including the statue of limitations for such legal claims, a cap of $250,000 for noneconomic damages in medical malpractice suits, and a cap on attorney fees. The CBO projected that the bill would reduce health care costs, including premiums, and lower the deficit by nearly $50 billion over ten years.
The Broader Options for Americans Act, H.R. 2579, sponsored by Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), will hit the floor on Friday. The bill would allow Americans who have lost or left their job and received health coverage through COBRA eligible for the American Health Care Act’s premium tax credit beginning on January 1, 2020. The bill, of course, is contingent upon the passage of the American Health Care Act.
Committee activity for the week can be found here.
The likelihood for action on the American Health Care Act, H.R. 1628, increased last week when Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he wants a vote before the Senate adjourns for the weeklong Independence Day recess. The problem is, no one really knows what the Senate’s version of the bill will look like, and there is plenty of reason to be concerned about the direction some Republicans want to go.
In short, if public statements by Republican senators are to be believed, the bill is moving in a centrist direction.
Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) want to extend Medicaid expansion through 2027, which would undermine the deficit reduction in the House-passed bill, given that eliminating Medicaid expansion represents $834 billion in savings. Extending Medicaid expansion this long would mean delaying the nearly $1 trillion in tax relief currently in the bill.
The MacArthur amendment, which was included in the House-passed bill and gives states flexibility on ObamaCare’s essential health benefits and community rating provisions, will likely be gutted. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who has been a disappointment on health care, is among the senators actively seeking to undermine this hard-fought win for conservatives.
Other than the American Health Care Act, which is increasingly looking worse in the Senate than it did in the House, the Senate will consider more of President Trump’s nominees during the week.
The Senate Budget Committee will, on Tuesday, hold a hearing featuring testimony from Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on President Trump’s FY 2018 budget request. The full committee schedule for the week can be found here.