October 1, 2020

Democrats offer to repeal Obamacare tax as spending talks continue: Report

Senate Democrats have put the repeal of an Obamacare tax on the table as part of negotiations to finalize the federal government’s 2020 budget, The Hill reported Saturday.

The so-called “Cadillac” tax had not yet gone into effect, but was scheduled to do so in 2022. A vote to repeal it has already passed the House in a 416–9 vote.

Originally, the tax was made part of Obamacare to discourage people from having “overly generous” insurance plans that were very expensive and covered just about every medical expense, according to The Hill. Unions didn’t like the tax, because they often provided the types of plans to which it referred.

Repealing the tax would cost taxpayers an estimated $196.9 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). CBO estimates are often inaccurate, however, because they don’t take into account how tax changes affect people’s behavior.

The sticking point: Border wall funding

Budget negotiators and their staffers are working through the weekend to come up with a plan that both parties will pass and the president will sign. A total of 12 spending bills are pending with a Dec. 20 deadline, and if they can’t be passed, a continuing resolution (CR) would need to be put in place to avoid a government shutdown.

The main sticking point in discussions right now is funding for the border wall between Mexico and the United States. While the House plan has no funding for border wall construction in fiscal 2020, the Senate plan has $5 billion allotted to wall construction, The Hill notes.

Beds in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities and President Donald Trump’s ability to shift military funds to the border wall have also been areas of disagreement.

Pelosi says no shutdown

For her part, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she doesn’t see a shutdown occurring. A CR may be needed until just after Congress returns from the Christmas recess, Pelosi said during a CNN town hall Thursday, but she thinks negotiators are close to a deal.

“I think the president and the Republicans learned in the last shutdown that…there was no upside to it, even though the president said, ‘I’ll take pride in shutting down the government,'” Pelosi told CNN’s Jake Tapper, according to KXLY. “I don’t think he’s going to take pride in shutting it down again.”

It wasn’t clear whether the ongoing impeachment hearings have detracted from budget negotiations, but some in Congress — on both sides of the aisle — have complained that impeachment is taking up too much of the government’s time. In fact, many of Tapper and the audience’s questions during the town hall were focused on impeachment, according to Newsweek, prompting Pelosi to finally ask: “Can we not have any more questions about impeachment?”

Of course, it’s no surprise that impeachment is the last thing Pelosi wants to talk about; Democrats have struggled in recent weeks as public support for Trump’s ouster has declined. Trump’s approval ratings have also increased amid efforts by House Democrats to say that the president withheld aid from Ukraine to get an investigation into his political rival, Joe Biden.

The president denies all the charges.

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