38-15-1: Salt Lake Chamber federal policy update

In light of last week’s House vote, the Salt Lake Chamber policy team wanted to provide an update on what to expect from Congress in the coming weeks on healthcare, tax reform, and the budget/appropriations bills.

Now that the House of Representatives has passed its version of legislation repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, below is a quick update on what is next for health care, the budget, and tax reform.

Health Care:

  • Action on the health care bill now moves to the Senate. With no filibuster, the bill needs a simple majority to pass the Senate.
  • The substance of what passes the Senate will be governed by two factors:
    1. What provisions pass muster with the parliamentarian under the Byrd Rule (for example provisions that don’t affect federal direct spending or revenue will not survive).
    2. What package of provisions can garner the support of 50+ Republican Senators (with the Vice President breaking a tie, Republicans can only lose the support of two GOP Senators).
  • The Senate-passed bill will return to the House. The House can pass the Senate bill without change, amend it and send it back to the Senate, or request a Conference with the Senate.
  • All 4 Utah House members voted for this bill.
  • Please note that the Salt Lake Chamber has not taken an official position on this legislation. We support reform that applies market principles to contain costs and improve health. Such reform includes increasing transparency of cost and quality, as well as fostering competition and providing incentives for patients, doctors, hospitals and insurers to utilize resources in ways that lead to measurably better outcomes.

The Budget:

  • The healthcare bill was passed using a reconciliation instruction from the FY ’17 budget resolution. In order to preserve the privileged status of the health care reconciliation bill, Congress must complete work on the health care bill prior to adoption of the FY ’18 budget resolution.
  • Under existing law, after May 15 the House can begin floor consideration of FY ’18 appropriations bills even without adoption of a budget resolution.

Tax Reform:

  • The House Leadership and Ways and Means Committee will now presumably be able to devote more time to advancing tax reform.
  • Passage of a tax reform reconciliation bill, however, will have to wait until passage of the FY ’18 budget resolution that includes a reconciliation directive. And, as noted above, that must wait until after completion of the health care reconciliation bill.

As difficult as the policy and politics of health care has been and tax reform has the potential to be, the single biggest obstacle to enactment of tax reform and a functioning budget process may be adoption of the FY ’18 budget resolution. Budget resolutions are always adopted strictly along party lines. Potential intraparty Republican disputes will include when the federal budget achieves balance, the level of defense and non-defense discretionary spending for FY ’18, the extent to which the budget assumes major changes to entitlement programs, and whether tax reform is revenue neutral (on a dynamic basis).

Congressional Republicans avoided these fights when they adopted the FY ’17 budget resolution in January by arguing that the whole point of the budget resolution was authorize the reconciliation bill necessary to make repeal of Obamacare possible. It is unclear if they can avoid such issues this time or, if they cannot, how they might resolve these matters.

38-15-1 is the Salt Lake Chamber Public Policy Update. From Congress and the Governor’s office to legislative committee rooms and city halls across the state, the Chamber is working to promote a pro-growth, business-focused agenda.