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The head tax writer in the House said his committee isn’t ready to hold a markup on an Affordable Care Act repeal bill because its budget impact is still being calculated, despite claims from panel members that a markup will take place as soon as the week of March 6.
“We don’t have a bill. We’re continuing to work with the Congressional Budget Office and our members on the final policy decisions,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) told reporters March 2. “When we do that, when we finalize that, we will announce a markup, post that bill publicly and follow the rules of the House, which are very transparent, to a T.”
Brady’s statement comes at the end of a week in which controversy surrounding Republican efforts to rewrite the law reached a fever pitch. When some members of the Energy and Commerce Committee were reportedly being allowed to view an updated committee draft March 2, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tried to force his way into a room to see it, and House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) went searching for it throughout the Capitol.
Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas) said there is uncertainty over the date of a markup because no one knows when the CBO might come back with the scores.
“There is no way that Ways and Means can give a time for when it’s going to have its markup,” Marchant said, as the committee continues to wait for CBO scores. Brady said he hopes to have the score as soon as possible, and the committee will work the weekend of March 4 on bill elements including health savings accounts and the scope of tax credits.
The Energy and Commerce Committee is marking up its reconciliation bill the week of March 6, and some members have said they’re prepared to hold a vote on it before receiving a score from the CBO. That move would be more difficult for Ways and Means, because the committee has jurisdiction over tax and revenue provisions. The two committees would need to reconcile their bills before a measure goes to the full House for a vote. The filibuster-proof reconciliation process will allow Republicans to rewrite the ACA without the backing of Democrats.
Still, some Ways and Means members and other Republican lawmakers say the two committees will indeed hold markups next week to stay on pace with an aggressive timeline. Generally, lawmakers including House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) have said they hope to make major progress in March, and hold a floor vote before the April 10-21 spring recess.
Ways and Means members are “very committed” to a markup the week of March 6, Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) said.
Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) told reporters March 2 that he expects to get a bill to the Senate in the next three weeks.
Ways and Means ranking member Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) held a news conference March 2 with several other Democrats—and sent a letter to Brady—calling for hearings and saying no markup should be held without a score. Brady, along with Reps. Linda T. Sanchez (D-Calif.) and Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), both on Ways and Means, said the committee doesn’t plan to hold more hearings because Republicans have been hashing out the issue for years.
Neal told Bloomberg BNA that the House is moving too quickly to jam through legislation, noting it took lawmakers 14 months to pass the Affordable Care Act.
“They’re going to do it in a week with no hearing?” he said.
Though some lawmakers are bullish on timing, many have said they are undecided about certain elements, such as a cap on the tax exemption for employer-sponsored health insurance. Other members have said they vehemently oppose a Feb. 10 repeal draft leaked Feb. 24. The draft caps the exemption at the 90th percentile of premiums.
Republican leaders have said the bill has evolved beyond the leaked draft, but still mirrors the ideas laid out in the GOP tax overhaul blueprint released in June 2016. Some Republicans also oppose the refundable tax credit included in the plan, saying it amounts to an entitlement program. Members are still discussing the credit, Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) told reporters March 2.
When asked, Brady said that criticism is way off base.
“I absolutely just believe it’s the best way to give people freedom to buy the health care that they need,” he said.
With assistance from Alex Ruoff and Kaustuv Basu in Washington.
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Text of Ways and Means Democrats' letter is at http://src.bna.com/mGn.
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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