Senate Republicans are set to bring their budget proposal to the floor for a vote, several days after the budget resolution passed by a 216-212 vote in the House of Representatives. The resolution lacked the support of 20 Republicans and all Democrats. The majority of GOP opposition to the bill came from members representing congressional districts in the states of New Jersey and New York. If signed into law, the legislation would eliminate state and local tax deductions, which are critical tax write-offs for their constituents. The Senate, which approved the current resolution, expects a path with very little margin for error although they will be operating under rules which would allow the legislation to pass by a simple majority.
This irresponsible legislation will negatively impact every age bracket, from the youngest citizens to our nation’s seniors. The plan calls for sizable cuts to funding in the farming community, leading to heightened food prices and damage to the farming economy. This budget plan would also grossly undermine America’s investments in jobs, increased wages, and the promise of a secure retirement.
The plan would also give tax breaks to corporations, decreasing the top marginal rate from 39.6 percent to 20 percent. One of the most prominent concerns about this proposal is where the funds would come from to pay for the increase in tax cuts, which could add an additional $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over a decade. It is expected that a decrease in state and local deductions (SALT) would provide most of the additional revenue needed, with the greatest concentration coming from residents of high-tax states, ending the ability of residents to write off state income and property taxes.
This issue led to a revolt by GOP members of both the New Jersey and New York congressional delegations, prompting Republican leadership to scramble to find solutions that would reign in these lawmakers. Criticism of the legislation has existed on both sides of the aisle -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has deemed this bill a “monumental assault on the middle class and the future of our nation.” Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin stressed that “this would be the worst time to disincentivize people from saving for their retirement.”
Amongst the myriad of negative consequences this proposal would inflict, it specifically serves to harm the majority of Americans by thoroughly gutting health care funding. Although the GOP has failed dozens of times thus far to repeal the Affordable Care Act, this budget acts as a consolation prize for Republicans, inflicting enormous cuts to Medicare and a trillion dollars in cuts to Medicaid, dramatically affecting millions of veterans, children, seniors, and rural communities. In an act of gross negligence, the Trump administration has halted the critical cost-sharing payments required under the Affordable Care Act to help lower health insurance costs as retaliation for failed attempts to repeal the legislation. As a result, the Congressional Budget Office reports that premiums will increase by an alarming 20 percent in 2018, with middle-class families bearing the brunt of the burden. This can also cause chaos in the healthcare marketplace, taking away affordable insurance options for millions of families. Furthermore, according to the CBO, this unethical refusal to make payments adds approximately $200 billion to the federal deficit over the next decade. Such malicious actions show that the GOP out of spite would rather do everything in its power to sabotage the Affordable Care Act instead of working to improve it, regardless of whether their actions or lack thereof prove detrimental to the country and its people.
Fortunately, there is still a bipartisan effort to improve the current healthcare law. The bipartisan Alexander-Murray health care bill, named for its co-sponsors Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray, provides responsible steps to stabilizing the healthcare exchange by decreasing premiums and providing more flexibility to states while protecting low-income residents and those living with pre-existing conditions. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the bipartisan legislation would decrease the federal deficit by $3.8 billion from 2018-2027 without decreasing the number of people who have coverage. Moreover, the CBO and Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that enacting the legislation would not increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2028. Finally, the bill would restore critical cost-sharing payments as well as $106 million for outreach activities to increase enrollment in ACA marketplaces, both of which the Trump administration has worked to destroy. With the November 1 open enrollment date officially here, there is a desperate need for Republicans to work collectively with Democrats to pass the Alexander/Murray bill and begin to take responsible actions to improve the ACA. As of October 25, the bill had a total of 12 Democratic and 12 Republican co-sponsors.
With the Trump administration still seeking a major policy win amidst a plethora of controversy, it seems that the leadership of the Republican Party is willing to cause great harm to the majority of the country in order to cater to the wealthy minority.