Hill Briefs: Repealing Obamacare; Rules for Estate Values

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By Allyson Versprille, Colleen Murphy and Aaron Lorenzo

Senate Democrats tried and failed to pass an amendment blocking repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced the amendment to the budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 3) serving as the framework for repealing the law. The amendment failed 48-52 on Jan. 5 along party lines. More amendments on the topic could be introduced next week.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said the ACA isn’t working and lawmakers must prepare “workable reforms that will actually bring down costs, provide more options, and let the American people make their own health care choices,” in a speech on the Senate floor that coincided with consideration of the resolution.

Stop Estate Valuation Regulation Train

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) reintroduced legislation to stop the IRS’s controversial estate valuation discount regulations (REG-163113-02).

The guidance, proposed in August under tax code Section 2704, was intended to stem abuses in which valuation discounts were being used solely to avoid paying estate tax on transfers of interests in closely held businesses. But the rules generated strong protests from family businesses and conservative lawmakers, who say they are too broad. Republican leaders have signaled that the rules will likely be struck down when Donald Trump assumes the presidency.

The reintroduced bills will prevent the IRS from “ignoring 25 years of tax precedent and unilaterally reinterpreting death tax law,” according to a joint news release from the lawmakers. It is important to deter President Barack Obama “from implementing these harmful rules during his final days in office and ensure future administrations do not seek to resurrect them,” Rubio said in a statement.

During the last Congress, similar legislation introduced by Davidson (H.R. 6100) and Rubio (S. 3436) attempted to stem the regulations by blocking funding. The bills garnered a total of 92 co-sponsors in the House and five in the Senate.

Ways and Means Adds Democrats

Three more new members are joining the House Ways and Means Committee: Reps. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.) and Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.).

They filled slots that opened up in part by the recent retirements of now-former members Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Jim McDermott (D-Wash). The GOP side of Ways and Means named three new members on Jan. 4: Reps. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) and David Schweikert (R-Ariz.).

Chronicle of a Tax Cut Foretold

Outgoing Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew offered economic advice to future lawmakers in a Treasury Department exit memo released Jan. 5. Congress should avoid the temptation to roll back regulations, weaken revisions and reduce oversight even in “calmer economic times,” Lew said.

He also warned that excessive borrowing paired with tax cuts won’t bode well for the long-term fiscal health of the nation. “While there is some scope for additional borrowing to finance smart investments in the next few years, ever-increasing borrowing is not sustainable as a long-run strategy, particularly when used to finance spending that does not generate higher growth or improvements for the middle class and in the case of deficit-increasing tax cuts, which deepen income and wealth disparities that are already a serious concern,” Lew said.

Both Trump and Republican lawmakers, who boast a majority in both the House and Senate, have called for significant tax cuts with the largest benefits going to the highest-income households.

In the memo, Lew supported “responsible” business tax overhaul. Republican lawmakers plan to address the corporate tax system in forthcoming legislation. Lew said he hopes the “fiscally responsible” framework proposed by Obama during his term will equip the new Congress as it prepares to take action in that area.

To contact the reporters on this story: Allyson Versprille in Washington at aversprille@bna.com, Colleen Murphy in Washington at cmurphy@bna.com and Aaron Lorenzo in Washington at aaron@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Meg Shreve at mshreve@bna.com

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