By Janice Podolski, ACE Health, Education, and Welfare Team Member
Here we go again. The Republicans passed their budget resolution that cut $1.5 Billion from Medicare and Medicaid, dealing a blow to the elderly, the poor, and the sickest. Now they plan to pass their tax reform bill, officially called the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” using the “Reconciliation” process that will only require fifty-one votes in the Senate. Vice President Mike Pence will be the tie-breaking vote.
It’s the same process the GOP used to try to pass their “Better Health Care Act,” which was meant to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act earlier this year, but, this time, they may actually win.
The House and Senate both are working on their own versions of the Tax Bill. Reportedly, House Speaker Paul Ryan believes he has the 218 votes needed to pass the House version of the Tax Bill, and he plans to bring it to the floor for a vote possibly on Thursday, November 16. If it passes, and the Senate approves their version of the bill, they will use a committee to reconcile the two bills into a single “Reconciliation” bill. If a reconciled bill passes both the Senate and House, it will move onto the president for his signature. President Trump wants this done before Christmas as his gift to his base and doesn’t seem to care what is really in it.
The House version eliminates the Major Medical Expense deduction, which allows taxpayers to deduct their unreimbursed allowable medical care expenses that exceed 10% of their adjusted gross income. The bill limits the deduction for property taxes to a maximum of $10,000 and on a primary home only. Only the interest on the first $500,000 borrowed to purchase a primary home would be deductible, and the bill eliminates deductions for interest on mortgages for second homes and home equity loans.
It also ends the deductions for income or sales taxes, as well as deductions for the interest on student loans. Teachers would no longer be able to deduct the cost of supplies they buy for their classrooms. The deduction for losses from floods, fires, or tornadoes that exceed 10% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income would be repealed. And there are many, many more cuts, eliminations, and repeals of deductions.
This bill hits the middle class hard.
Interestingly, the House Ways and Means Committee, which is the step before a bill goes to the House floor for a vote, approved a provision in this Tax Bill to do away with the “Johnson Amendment” of 1954 that forbids non-profit charities [501(c)(3)s], including churches, from endorsing political candidates.
Just think—when you open your next church bulletin or solicitation for your favorite charity you could see a line urging you to vote for Peter Roskam or other candidate(s).
The Senate is still “marking up” its version. And there are many differences, but you get the gist. Just today, the Senate has decided to include a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that requires everyone to have health insurance.
They keep trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act bit by bit even if they have to try to hide it in a Tax Cut Bill. The plan is for the House Republicans to go first to try to push their version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act through the House. Then the Senate will get their version through the Senate Finance Committee, which is the step before it goes to the floor of the Senate for a vote.
And so, the rollercoaster ride begins anew. Let’s hope it is at least that and not a slam-dunk that hurts the poor, the elderly, and the middle class while benefitting only the very wealthy and corporations.
We learned during the Reagan administration that “trickle-down economics” just does not work. Guess the Republicans didn’t get that memo.
Call your Congressmembers, whether Republican or Democrat, and voice your concerns regarding the Tax Cuts and Jobs Bill. And it is not too soon to voice encouragement for Senators Durbin (202-224-2152) and Duckworth (202-224-2854) to stand up for the people of Illinois in this fight.
Sources: The Washington Post, the Chicago Sun-Times, Politico, MSN News, and The Hill.
ACE Health, Education, and Welfare Team Member Janice Podolski is a retired faculty member from the Department of Pharmacology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. She was a registered nurse for fifty years and has a master’s degree in Nursing and Ph.D. in Physiology. She volunteers at Loaves & Fishes Community Services and with PADS in DuPage County.