Congress is planning to use a $1.4 trillion package of two must-pass spending bills to repeal Obamacare taxes, raise the age for tobacco purchases to 21 and extend the U.S. Export-Import Bank for seven years, according to legislation released Monday.
The negotiations continued up until the last minute on the bills, which needs to pass the House and Senate before current funding expires on Friday. Although the bills have been filed, further changes could be made as amendments.
Obamacare taxes that would be repealed include a 2.3% excise tax on medical devices and a health insurance industry fee that would have taken effect next year, the aide said Monday. The spending package would also repeal the “Cadillac tax,” a 40% excise tax on the most generous and expensive health-insurance plans, which would have hit in 2022.
These taxes, which have been delayed previously, highlight the conflicting forces pulling at Democrats in Congress, who are keen to support the Affordable Care Act but also wary of raising taxes on heath care costs.
The repeals were attached to two packages of spending bills to provide the funds needed to avoid a shutdown of the U.S. government after Dec. 20 and to operate federal agencies through next September.
The bills are the result of weeks of bipartisan talks between Democratic and Republican lawmakers and the White House. The House plans to vote Tuesday, with the Senate voting before the Friday deadline.
Lawmakers are still negotiating an additional amendment, expected later Monday, that could include extensions of tax breaks for biodiesel, short-line railroads and motor racing tracks.
The White House has not explicitly supported the bills and didn’t respond to a request for a response. Still, President Donald Trump is expect to sign them and avoid a repeat of the 35-day shutdown earlier this year sparked by his demands for border wall funding.
The government is currently running on a stopgap funding because none of the 12 annual appropriations bills had been enacted by the Oct. 1 start of fiscal 2020.
While the wall could have proved to be a contentious issue in this year’s federal funding as well, Republicans and Democrats agreed to keep the status quo in place. The spending deal announced Monday provides $1.375 billion in new wall funding and leaves it to the courts to decide whether Trump has the power to raid military construction accounts to fund the project. The funding bills would not replenish $3.6 billion Trump took from those accounts last year.
It does give Trump greater flexibility than last year as to where he can build the wall, according to a senior Republican aide, while maintaining his transfer authority to use other funds for the wall. The aide said that all existing anti-abortion and pro-gun provisions, which Republicans support, have been maintained and there are no new provisions supporting abortion.
Republicans won a $22 billion increase in overall defense spending, their highest priority, along with a 3.1% pay increase for U.S. troops.
The package also provides a 3.1% pay increase for federal workers. Among other wins for Democrats, the bills provide $425 million for a program to secure next year’s election and $7.6 billion for the Census–$1.4 billion more than Trump wanted. The bill would grant $25 million for gun violence research for the first time in decades.
Tobacco, Ex-Im Bank, Miner Pensions
The deal would raise the age to purchase tobacco and nicotine vaping products nationally to 21.
It doesn’t include a compromise on surprise medical billing or prescription drugs prices. However, because some health-related funding will run out on May 22 under this deal, Democrats are hoping to use that deadline to revisit drug pricing as part of a broader health care compromise.
The plan includes measures intended to reduce prices of generic pharmaceutical drugs, by making it easier for companies to compete to produce generic medicines.
In addition to reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank, the measure would direct the bank to assist exports that compete with China.
The legislation also includes the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement, or SECURE, Act, which closes loopholes and makes it easier for small business employees, home-care workers, and part-time workers to save for retirement. This measure would remove the maximum age limits on retirement contributions, formerly capped at age 70 1/2. It would also raise the age to 72, from 70 1/2, by which investors are required to draw on their accounts. Student loan borrowers would be able to use funds in tax-advantaged 529 accounts to pay off their educational debt.
The deal would also extend the National Flood Insurance Program’s authorization to Sept. 30 and the Terrorism Risk Insurance program for seven years.
The spending agreement includes the Bipartisan American Miners Act of 2019 to prevent insolvency of the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan. Further, this provision extends health retirement benefits to miners impacted by coal company bankruptcies that took place in 2018 and 2019.
Without this provision, 92,000 coal miners’ pensions and the health care benefits for 13,000 miners would have been at risk. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said last week he would delay all Senate business until the miner’s provision was inserted into the funding package.
(Updates with additional negotiations in the seventh paragraph.)
–With assistance from Alexander Ruoff.