Thursday, December 4, 2014

After Passing Corporate Tax Cuts, Congress Decides to Fund New Program by Cutting Medicare

Yesterday, the House voted to extend a slew of corporate tax breaks 378 to 46.

After that, they passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, a bill that creates tax-free savings accounts for people with disabilities. The bill was bipartisan, with 380 co-sponsors almost evenly divided between the two parties.

However, although Republicans were fine to pass "unfunded," deficit-increasing tax breaks, they demanded an offset for the ABLE Act.

So where did they get the money?
The bill makes up for the cost of the tax-free accounts by making a number of changes to Medicare payments and other provisions, including a nine-cent raise in the cargo fuel excise tax, charging 15 percent more on certain federal payments to Medicare providers as a means to collect taxes, and raising the age by one year at which Social Security disability insurance benefits would kick in. It also would stop Medicare payments for penis pumps, among other things.
Ah, yes, Congress decides to cut from Social Security and Medicare. 
Say what you will about penis pumps (some have laughed at them, others defended them), but Congress should not be dipping into Medicare to fund other programs. It sets a bad precedent.

Nevertheless, the bill passed with a wide bipartisan majority of 404 to 17.

12 Democrats and 5 Republicans voted against it.

The 5 Republicans were Justin Amash (MI-03), Jim Bridenstine (OK-01), Tim Huelskamp (KS-01), Walter Jones (NC-03), and Mark Sanford (SC-01).

Here are the 12 Democrats:

Xavier Becerra (CA-34)
John Garamendi (CA-03)
Raul Grijalva (AZ-03)
Jim McDermott (WA-07)
Gwen Moore (WI-04)
Grace Napolitano (CA-32)
Mark Pocan (WI-02)
Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
Jan Schakowsky (IL-09)
David Scott  (GA-13)
Mark Takano (CA-41)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23)

Here is DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) on her vote:
"I am a co-sponsor of the ABLE Act, a laudable piece of legislation meant to help people with disabilities set up tax-free savings accounts. However, I decided not to vote for the bill once Republicans insisted on funding it by making permanent cuts to Medicare. I cannot in good conscience support Medicare cuts that will have a direct impact on the care that some seniors receive. At a time when we are concerned about the long-term solvency of Medicare and looking for ways to strengthen the program, cutting it is bad policy. I believe there were plenty of other pay-for options the Congress could have considered to fund the ABLE Act."
Here is Chairman of the Democratic Caucus Xavier Becerra as well:
“It's a laudable and worthy goal to incentivize savings and ensure that families of individuals with disabilities have access to the resources they need.  But Congress has a responsibility to ensure that limited resources benefit those who need the help the most. Unfortunately, this bill is yet another example of an upside-down tax code that provides the greatest benefits to those of greatest means, not to middle class families living paycheck to paycheck.
"Additionally, using Medicare savings to offset non-health related programs sets a dangerous precedent. While there are elements to this bill that both sides can agree on, this bill takes one step forward and two steps back."
Here is Mark Takano:
“When it was first introduced, I proudly co-sponsored the ABLE Act, which would establish tax-preferred savings accounts for Americans with disabilities. Undoubtedly, these accounts would have helped millions of individuals and families cover many different needs.
“However, throughout the legislation process, Members of the House who are in favor of doing away with our safety net saw the ABLE Act as a way to cut Social Security benefits. I have long promised to vote against any piece of legislation that would cut Social Security and Medicare benefits, and even though I supported the original intent of this bill, I could not vote in favor of this modified version.”

And here is Jim McDermott:
"The ABLE Act isn't the issue here. The issue is how we're going to pay for it," said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.). "Mark my words, when it comes time to offer another tax break, my colleagues on the other side will come after Medicare again. And the next time the cut will be deeper and easier because we did it today."

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