Tax Conference Committee to Meet on Wednesday

The House-Senate Conference Committee on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) will meet this Wednesday to begin resolving the differences between the House- and Senate-passed tax reform bills. Congressional leadership named the following lawmakers to serve on the committee: Conference Chair Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Reps. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Don Young (R-Alaska), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Sander Levin (D-Mich.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), and Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), John Cornyn (R-Texas), John Thune (R-S.D.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). In reconciling the two versions of the legislation, the conference committee will have to address a number of health care policy provisions. Repeal of the individual mandate was not included in the House-passed legislation, but is widely supported by House Republicans and is expected to be included in the final bill. The House bill, however, did include a provision that would end the tax exemption for private activity bonds, which are often used by non-profit organizations such as hospitals and universities for capital improvement projects. Chairman Brady has indicated that there may be a path forward for preserving or reigning in the infrastructure-financing private activity bonds. The House bill would also end the ability of individuals to deduct certain medical expenses if costs exceed 10 percent of their income. The Senate bill, however, would expand this deduction by lowering the income threshold to 7.5 percent. Chairman Brady has said that he is being pressed by a number of his colleagues to maintain some form of protection for people with extraordinary medical expenses. Lawmakers will also have to take steps to officially waive the PAYGO rule, which would trigger cuts to Medicare and other federal programs to offset the impact of the tax bill on the deficit. The waiver is widely supported by congressional Republicans, even the staunch fiscal conservatives of the House Freedom Caucus.

Trump to Speak on Tax Bill

President Trump is scheduled to speak at the Treasury Department on Wednesday to a group of young people and middle-class families. He plans to discuss how the Republican tax package will benefit the economy and the middleclass. The president wants to rally support for the bill as the congressional conference committee meets to work though the differences in the House and Senate bills with the goal of passing a conference report before Congress breaks for the holidays – currently scheduled for December 22.

Lawmakers Debate Obamacare Tax Delay

Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Kevin Brady (R-Texas) announced that negotiations are underway to repeal or delay several Obamacare taxes, including the medical device tax, which kicks in on January 1, and the tax on high cost health plans known as the Cadillac tax, scheduled to begin in 2020. Lawmakers are also debating whether or not to provide partial relief from the annual health insurance provider fee, which was also created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and is levied on certain insurers. Under the current proposal, the fee, which Congress postponed until January 1, 2018, would be suspended for Medicare Advantage plans and those plans on the individual health insurance markets in 2018 before being halted for all insurers in 2019.

Alexander In Favor of Expanded Opioid Funding for NIH

Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has stated that he would support the provision of new spending authority to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to bolster the agency’s ability to respond to the opioid crisis. NIH Director Francis Collins has called for other transactions authority, which would give the NIH more flexibility in funding research grants and firing research partners who fail to meet expectations. Sen. Alexander said that he plans on discussing the issue with HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

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