Republican Senate budget plan blocks full ACA repeal

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Senate Republicans unveiled a fiscal 2018 budget resolution Friday that they intend to use to push through as much as $1.5 trillion of tax cuts in the coming months, but it won’t allow the GOP to pursue a full repeal of Obamacare.

The budget proposal would still allow Republicans to pursue a much narrower attack on the Affordable Care Act, including repealing the individual mandate to purchase coverage. The resolution also would let the GOP use the fast-track process to open up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The budget, authored by Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi, forecasts a balance in nine years through $5 trillion in largely unspecified spending cuts. Unlike the House budget proposed in July, Enzi’s blueprint doesn’t call for cuts to Medicaid or a partial privatization of Medicare.

"A pro-growth tax plan will move the U.S. economy forward and help to produce better jobs and bigger paychecks for every American," Enzi, of Wyoming, said in a statement.

The Senate draft is to be voted on by the Budget Committee next week, with floor votes planned later in October and a conference to resolve differences with the House after that. The House plans a floor vote on its budget plan next week.

Once in place, the budget resolution would allow Republicans to bring up a tax-cut bill that would increase deficits by as much as $1.5 trillion, compared with a Congressional Budget Office baseline. Under the fast-track process, the GOP-controlled Senate could pass the proposal with no Democratic votes.

President Donald Trump and Republican leaders announced a tax-cut plan Wednesday that would cut the top individual rate to 35 percent from the current 39.6 percent. It would let Congress decide whether to create a higher bracket for those at the top of the income scale. The rate on corporations would be set at 20 percent, down from the current 35 percent. Under Senate rules, any tax cuts that increase the deficit would have to expire in 10 years because the budget process can’t be used for long-term deficit increases.

The proposal’s instructions to the Finance Committee could allow a partial repeal of Obamacare, although panel Chairman Orrin Hatch has said he will keep that separate from a tax overhaul. Republican leaders have said they won’t try again on the health-care law until fiscal 2019.

When Republicans attempted to use the 2017 budget process to repeal Obamacare earlier this year, they didn’t provide a 10-year plan for reducing the deficit.

The new Senate plan proposes a balanced budget within nine years, while leaving it to other committees to figure out how to achieve that. The proposal calls for $4.8 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years and $1.635 trillion in revenue losses, including the tax cuts. Balance by 2026 is achieved by assuming $1.2 trillion in economic growth, in part due to the tax cuts. Enzi claims to achieve a $197 billion surplus in 2027.

The House budget seeks to make $203 billion in cuts in entitlements such as Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps, and it could be used to fast-track changes to the Dodd-Frank financial law. The Senate plan avoids those options.

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