In it, but not of it. TPM DC

When Congress passed a massive tax overhaul into law last week, it also knocked out one of the key pillars of the Affordable Care Act: the individual mandate.

Though there is an open debate among health care experts as to just how effective the mandate and its penalty has been over the past few years at pushing young and healthy people to sign up for health insurance, nearly all agree that the repeal will be a severe blow to the nation’s health care system, driving up premiums, scaring away insurers, and swelling the ranks of the uninsured.

While President Trump has repeatedly and inaccurately declared that by killing the mandate he has essentially killed Obamacare in its entirety, health economists predict that even in the worst case scenario, the ACA will manage to survive—bloody and bruised but very much alive.

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The morning after Christmas, President Donald Trump resumed his victory lap on the GOP tax plan, boasting correctly that he had repealed “the very unfair and unpopular individual mandate,” but incorrectly adding that doing so “essentially repeals (over time) ObamaCare.”

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The proposal Republicans offered to fund for six months a popular child health care program would also cut $750 million from the Affordable Care Act’s public health fund. The $750 million is technically being redirected to community health centers and other programs that have also been running short on funds. Nonetheless, the proposed cuts are prompting pushback from Democrats who have otherwise pressed the GOP to reauthorize funding for the child health care program, the Children’s Health Insurance Programs (also known as CHIP).

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The morning after casting her vote for a tax bill that kills Obamacare’s individual mandate, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) put out a statement saying the health care policies she demanded in exchange for her vote will not be considered at all this year.

One bill would to restore government subsidies to insurance companies, known as cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments, that the Trump administration cut off earlier this year. Another would set up a temporary federal reinsurance program aimed at lowering premiums. Collins’ third demand was a waiver of deep automatic cuts to Medicare and other federal programs triggered by the $1.4 trillion price tag of the tax cuts passed this week.

Now, it appears all three demands will not be met this year.

“It has become clear that Congress will only be able to pass another short-term extension to prevent a government shutdown and to continue a few essential programs,” Collins said in a joint statement with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who co-sponsored legislation to restore CSR payments.

“There is every reason to believe that these important provisions can and will be delivered as part of a bipartisan agreement” in January, the lawmakers added.

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Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.

Immigrant rights activist and several lawmakers voiced outrage this week as it became clear that Congress is not likely to act to restore the protections from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants before the end of the year—as Democratic leaders originally promised. 

But Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) told reporters Wednesday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has committed to holding a vote on a DACA fix early next year.

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Second time’s the charm.

The House passed a sweeping tax bill once again on Wednesday, taking a mulligan one day after Senate rules forced the other chamber to make minor changes to the law and sending the package of massive corporate tax cuts to President Trump for his signature after an embarrassing misstep.

The House passed the bill by a 224-201 margin on a mostly party-line vote, after the Senate passed it by a 51-48 margin along party lines in the predawn hours Wednesday.

Trump will hold a “bill passage event” later Wednesday afternoon to celebrate it clearing Congress, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday, rather than the normal bill signing ceremony, because of the congressional glitch.

Trump called the bill “historic” and described it as and “incredible Christmas gift for hardworking Americans” while touting the corporate tax cuts at a White House event earlier on Wednesday.

The revote became necessary when Republicans were forced to remove a few provisions of the law Wednesday afternoon that didn’t comply with reconciliation rules that allowed Republicans to pass it with a simple majority in the Senate, shortly after it initially passed the House. The do-over was the latest sign of how rushed Republicans were in ramming through a plan with massive corporate tax cuts and individual cuts that analysis shows will disproportionately benefit wealthier Americans while adding almost $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade.

“A revote within less than 24 hours of original passage — this proves that this bill is rotten to its core,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-NY) said during House floor debate before the vote.

House Ways & Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) celebrated the bill as the first “real tax reform” in decades as the House went to revote, a move that sent the bill to the president’s desk after the Senate passed the latest version late Tuesday night.

According to the Tax Policy Center, a left-leaning think tank, fully 83 percent of the bill’s benefits will accrue to the top 1 percent of Americans in the next decade.

The bill also repeals the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and opens up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling — two long sought-after achievements for Republicans, who saw their broader Obamacare repeal efforts fall short this summer.

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Late Tuesday night, the Senate passed a massive overhaul of the nation’s tax system, locking in massive corporate tax cuts and major changes to individual rates, and eliminating the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

The bill passed the Senate after midnight on Tuesday by a 51-48 margin, after a number of Republican senators who had once voiced concerns over the sprawling bill’s deficit-ballooning price tag, its outsized benefits for the rich and large corporations, and the damage it will do to health insurance markets eventually shrugged and voted yes.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who dramatically tanked Republicans’ bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act this summer, was absent due to complications in his cancer treatment, and will not return to the Senate until next year.

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Republicans’ almost-passed tax bill could turn their 2018 headache in the suburbs into a migraine.

Their tax plan, which is broadly unpopular with Americans, could prove particularly toxic in the wealthier suburban enclaves that have already become a major worry for Republicans heading into next year’s midterm elections — areas that already have shown major warning signs for the party in recent special elections from Alabama to Virginia to Washington. That’s a huge problem for the party as it looks to hang onto control of the House — a war that will be largely fought in those same suburbs — and hold serve in the Senate.

“It’s a negative for us in every other way than fundraising,” one GOP strategist working on a number of congressional campaigns told TPM. “What’s the reason why some of these upper income districts have historically been with us and have stayed with us even as the party’s moved right on social issues? Taxes. If the Democrats are able to successfully prosecute the case on taxes in those districts against our members, then that’s a scary situation.”

The bill starts off with historically bad poll numbers for a major piece of legislation. Just 33 percent of Americans support the effort while 55 percent oppose it, according to a poll released by CNN on Tuesday. Those numbers were just as bleak in a Monmouth University poll that came out Monday: Just 26 percent of Americans approved of the plan, with 47 percent disapproving of it. Those polls show majorities of Americans think the bill’s changes benefit the wealthy more than the middle class — a true point, looking at most nonpartisan analysis of the bill.

Even Obamacare had about 40 percent approval in most polls when it passed in 2010, with a plurality but not a majority of Americans disapproving of the law, and its passage presaged one of the largest House midterm waves in history.

Those top-line numbers are rough. And while Republicans argue it’ll get more popular as Americans start getting tax cuts next year, the bill’s future is an even starker picture in the districts where House Republican incumbents already appeared the most vulnerable — blue-state suburbs.

That’s where the bill’s new $10,000 cap for deducting state and local income and property taxes will cause tax increases for a number of voters and where high local housing prices mean the plan’s lowering of the maximum rate people can deduct for mortgage interest could significantly deflate local real estate values. Those effects are particularly severe in the wealthier suburbs of states with higher local taxes like New York, New Jersey and California —  a potentially toxic mix in areas where once solidly Republican voters have already been fleeing their party in the Donald Trump era.

An analysis of the bill from Moody’s found that 15 of the 30 counties that are worst off under the new bill are in New Jersey. Some of the hardest-hit real estate markets would be in greater New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, D.C. and Minneapolis, where a bevy of Republicans face tough races.

The areas where the bill is the biggest problem could be seen in the GOP defections on the final vote for passage: 11 of the 12 GOP no votes on the bill came from New Jersey (four), New York (five) and California (two).

“It’s not good in my district, it’s not good in New Jersey,” Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) told TPM as he exited the House floor after the vote.

Suburban members like Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Ed Royce (R-CA) just handed Democrats another attack line with their yes votes.

But even GOP no votes like LoBiondo and Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) might not be able to escape voters’ fury over the bill — as the dozens of Democrats who lost their 2010 reelection fights even after voting against Obamacare can attest.

“I don’t necessarily believe that legislative success translates into electoral success. Just ask the Democrats — they had Obamacare,” Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), a  suburban moderate who backed the bill and is retiring at the end of his term, told TPM.

LoBiondo’s response when asked if it would hurt him and other suburban Republicans in their reelection even if they voted against the bill: “Time will tell.”

While GOP leaders argue the tax plan will eventually become a political winner once voters find out more about it, even some of the bill’s supporters admit they’re not so sure. Republicans were in a tough spot. The party’s already facing major fundraising woes, and failure to pass the tax plan would have left them without any major legislative accomplishments to run on, while infuriating their donors.

“The only thing worse for them is if the bill fails,” former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), a one-time National Republican Congressional Committee chairman, told TPM before the bill passed. “It’s clearly worse if Republicans ended up doing nothing.”

But avoiding the worst-case scenario isn’t exactly the same as a win. And while Democrats are furious about the policy loss, they’re licking their chops about what it means for 2018.

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The House will have to take a mulligan on tax reform after the Senate parliamentarian ruled some portions of the bill don’t pass muster with reconciliation rules Tuesday afternoon, an embarrassing if temporary setback for Republicans’ top legislative priority as they close out the year.

The screw-up was on the Senate side, and is the latest sign of how fast Republicans are trying to rush through a major overhaul of both corporate and individual tax law.

The parliamentarian struck down Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) prized change to allow 529 college savings plans to be used for homeschooling expenses, as well as part of a provision exempting some private universities from a new tax on colleges’ student endowments. The title of the bill itself, “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” was also ruled to violate Senate rules for allowing the bill to pass with 51 votes rather than a supermajority.

The changes are relatively minor — but the process screw-up is embarrassing. That ruling came just hours after House Republicans passed the $1.5 trillion tax cut, patting themselves on the back for a job well done.

“In the mad dash to provide tax breaks for their billionaire campaign contributors, our Republican colleagues forgot to comply with the rules of the Senate. We applaud the parliamentarian for determining that three provisions in this disastrous bill are in violation of the Byrd rule.  It is our intention to raise a point of order to remove these provisions from the conference report and require the House to vote on this bill again,” Budget Committee ranking Democrat Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Finance Committee ranking Democrat Ron Wyden (D-OR) said in a joint statement late Tuesday afternoon.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) office announced shortly afterwards that members should expect to revote on the bill Wednesday morning in response to the news. The Senate still plans to vote on the bill Tuesday night, though since it’ll now be a different bill the House will have to vote to concur with the changes before it can become law.

It’s a minor setback in the grand scheme for the GOP — but not a good look for Republicans.

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