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ACA Tax Blocker Measure Stalls in Senate

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Members of the Senate voted 50-49 early today to block the start of debate on an emergency anti-government shutdown measure that includes three major Affordable Care Act tax-blocking provisions come up for debate on the Senate floor.

The Senate is preparing to resume debate on the measure at noon Eastern time.

The Senate will stream live video of the proceedings here.

(Related: Major Health Tax Blockers Reach Senate Floor)

Under normal Senate rules, supporters of the measure — which is packaged as the “Extension of Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018″ (ECAA), an amendment to H.R. 195 — need 60 votes in the Senate to prevent opponents of the measure from starting a filibuster. A filibuster is an endless round of debate.

Republicans hold 51 seats in the Senate. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is fighting brain cancer and was not able to attend.

Five Democratic senators ended up voting for the ECAA, but five Republicans voted against it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who supports the measure, voted against it for procedural reasons. Voting for the measure gives him the right under Senate rules to ask for the vote to be reconsidered.

An official record of the vote is available here.

Provisions in the ECAA measure would delay the start of the Affordable Care Act Cadillac plan tax for two more years, and they would delay the reinstatement of the ACA medical device tax for two years and reinstatement of the health insurer fee for one year.

Analysts at the Congressional Budget Office have estimated that the ACA tax provisions could reduce federal government revenue by about $29 billion over 10 years.

The federal government generates about $3.7 trillion in total revenue per year and spends about $4.1 trillion per year.

The ECAA measure would also provide permission for the government to keep operating normally under Feb. 16.

The government’s official permission from Congress to spend money expired at midnight. The government is now in the process of starting a partial shutdown.

ECAA opponents have focused mainly on asking Republicans to add provisions, such as a section that would provide relief for children brought to the United States without proper documentation, who may face deportation starting in March. Some members of Congress, including Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., have questioned whether the ACA tax measures should be in a spending bill, but they have not put much apparent effort into getting the ACA tax measures removed.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article described the proposed health insurer fee moratorium incorrectly. The fee would be suspended for one year.

—Read Cadillac Plan Tax Math May Shape ACA Attack on ThinkAdvisor.

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