By Daniel Sheehan
AFOP Executive Director
November 16, 2017
Republicans in Congress are working feverishly this week to advance tax legislation. The House will consider its version of the bill today. The Senate Finance Committee hopes to clear its own draft bill today, too, allowing for the full Senate to vote on it after next week’s Thanksgiving recess. As I have reported previously, the anti-poverty community worries that the Republican majority will use the resulting deficits from the lost revenue of the proposed tax cuts to justify drastic cuts in mandatory spending, like Medicaid, SNAP, and other safety-net programs, and non-defense discretionary funding, like that for NFJP. The Coalition for Human Needs, in which AFOP participates, is working closely with Washington tax-policy think tanks to make clear to lawmakers the harm this plan will cause non-wealthy Americans: not only will future spending cuts hurt, but tax cuts skewed to the wealthiest one percent and large corporations will further widen the gap between rich and poor in this country.
As mentioned in this Washington Post piece, Senate leaders decided at the last minute to include in their bill a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. Doing so will allow the Senate to claim $300 billion in savings. Why? Fewer insured means less the federal government pays in subsidies to lower-income individuals. Experts estimate that 13 million fewer people will not have insurance as a result of this change. They will be the young and healthy, leaving an older, sicker pool of insured, thus driving up insurance premiums, by as much as ten percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Anti-poverty folks decry that this is simply an unconscionable shift in federal resources from lower- and middle-class Americans to the very wealthy.
Many fear that, with Senate passage of its plan, the House may approve the Senate legislation without amendment, clearing it directly for the president’s desk. While that’s no guarantee, it is a possibility. Accordingly, the entire anti-poverty community is mobilizing to tell Congress that this is a bad deal for the nation as a whole. The “Tax Cuts” section of this Newsline carries more details about the tax plans and the possible consequences of their adoption. If you would like additional information on this topic, or would like to contact your delegation in regard to the tax proposals, please feel free to email or call me. In addition, you can find your senators’ contact information here Link to Senators, and your House of Representative members here Link to House Members.
With respect to a final decision on Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations, the current continuing resolution (CR) funding the government runs out December 8. Because the tax push is consuming all the oxygen in the room, Congress will pass another CR after recess. We don’t know for how long the CR will run, but I would guess it will be a short-term CR. Conservatives on the Hill want a longer CR, into January, because they don’t want to be jammed into accepting an increase in the statutory budget caps prior to year’s end. Appropriators don’t want that, though, and seem to have leadership on their side. As we learn more, we will let you know. Again, over the summer, we did very well in the House Labor-HHS spending bill – an 11-percent cut down to $72 million – after we were told we should expect to see an “ugly” number, and even better in the Senate version, where we are level funded at $82 million. In the hopes of seeing the highest number possible, I am continuing to work closely with our appropriator friends and have put AFOP on a letter going out today from the Coalition to Invest in America’s Workforce, to which the association belongs, to Hill leaders encouraging full funding for Opportunity Act and other important programs.