TAX CUTS: Reconciliation Bill Clears Both Chambers
Both houses of Congress yesterday approved the House-Senate conference bill to reduce taxes by $792 billion over 10 years -- a measure that includes significant deductions for long-term care insurance and health insurance for the self-employed. Largely along party lines, the House approved the bill 221-206, and the Senate followed with a 50-49 vote. Rather than immediately shipping the bill to its expected death via President Clinton's veto pen, however, "Republicans will hold it for their monthlong recess that begins tonight, using the time to take their case to the people in hopes" of changing the president's mind. House Republican Conference Chair J.C. Watts (OK) said, "When we get the facts out, rather than focusing on what the Democrats are saying, we win the battle overwhelmingly." But the president hardened his position yesterday, calling the tax cut "so big, so bloated and so weighted towards special interest and upper-income people that there won't be any money to extend the life of the Medicare trust fund -- not a penny" (Godfrey, Washington Times, 8/6). Health Insurance Association of America President Chip Kahn said in a release, "This tax relief is vitally important because it addresses affordability -- the primary obstacle confronting most consumers seeking health and long-term care coverage. Also, we are pleased that there appears to be an emerging bipartisan Congressional consensus around the wisdom of using the tax code to help provide coverage to uninsured Americans" (8/5).
Separately, Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers told a group of moderate-to-conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats this week that the president "will not cut a deal with Republicans on taxes unless plans for Medicare reform, extending the solvency of Social Security and debt reduction are also part of the mix" (Koffler, CongressDaily/A.M., 8/6).