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ACA Tax Blockers Seem to Be Near Senate Passage

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The Senate appears to be keeping three major Affordable Care Act tax-blocker provisions in the “Extension of Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018″ (ECAA) bill.

Members of the Senate have voted 81-18 to let a new, revised version of the ECAA anti-shutdown bill reach the Senate floor without facing the threat of a filibuster, or endless round of debate organized by bill opponents.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has said that he believes enough Senate Democrats will support the ECAA bill for it to pass in the Senate.

The Senate is streaming live video of ECAA proceedings here.

Members of the Senate voted Friday to keep an earlier version of the ECAA bill from reaching the Senate floor. The version that stalled on Friday would give the government permission to operate until Feb. 16.

The new, revised version that’s on the Senate agenda today would give the government permission to operate only until Feb. 8. The date change appears to be the main difference between the new version and the version that stalled on Friday. The ACA tax provisions in the ECAA bill appear to be unchanged.

(Related: Major Health Tax Blockers Reach Senate Floor)

The law that gives the federal government permission to spend money on its operations expired at midnight Friday. Many federal agencies are shutting themselves down

The ECAA bill would give the federal government temporary permission to spend money. The bill would also extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years.

The Affordable Care Act Tax Provisions

Provisions in the ECAA measure would

  • Delay the start of the Affordable Care Act Cadillac plan tax for two extra years.

  • Delay the reinstatement of the ACA medical device tax for two years.

  • Delay the 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.

What Congress Is Doing

Congressional leaders have packaged the ECAA as an amendment to H.R. 195, which is a minor Federal Register access bill.

The House passed its version of the ECAA last week. If the Senate approves a revised version of the ECAA, the House will have to approve that final version of the bill.

Many Democrats in the Senate, and some Republicans, worked to slow consideration of the bill because they wanted ECAA backers to add more provisions, such as a provision protecting non-U.S. children who were brought into the United States illegally.

The debate over the ECAA measure is so intense partly because of the nature of the rivalry between the Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

Given the difficulties bill sponsors have with rounding up bipartisan support for most legislation, they believe that the only bills that have much of a chance of becoming law are those attached to critical budget and spending authorization packages.

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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