ASA Washington Update
Nearly three months, or 100 days ago, the Donald Trump White House appeared under siege, having to show what it’s done in the first 100 days since he was sworn into office.
With little else than the successful appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court —no small feat in itself — there was little else to show. “Give us 200 days,” they said.
Day 100 was April 29, 2017, bringing us to now, three months and 100 days later. The single biggest goal of the Republican Party, which holds the White House, Senate and House, was to repeal the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. How many times have you heard a Republican candidate for the House or Senate run on repeal and replacement of this relatively unpopular law? Regrettably, for small-business owners hoping for a repeal and replacement, this has been nothing short of a failure.
The challenges were great and many. How could the government reasonably take away a benefit from millions of stakeholders, even with the promise of an equal or better replacement? How could the providers of this care, be they employers, insurance exchanges or state governments, operate with the uncertainty of continuity of coverage and at what cost?
The leaders in the House and then the Senate had an even more difficult problem. Historically, leaders are expected to negotiate with members of the opposing party to gain consensus. But now, even though they hold the majority, Republicans have found themselves negotiating with those furthest to the right in their party against those closest to the middle ideologically. This was first seen when House Speaker Paul Ryan struggled in his first attempt to get a bill passed through the House, the easier of the two bodies. It was eventually followed in the Senate with those on the far right wanting nothing less than full, immediate repeal against those that believed the bill went too far, putting too many at risk of losing their health coverage.
In the end, the results in the Senate were a little different than the House. While the House managed to pass legislation ending the ACA, the Senate could not get it across the finish line. Full repeal, “skinny” or partial repeal, all failed, leading the Senate to shelve health care for the foreseeable future.
Moving to a task as equally challenging as health care on the eve of the August recess, the House, Senate and White House all released a unified statement of principles on rewriting the tax code, something that has not been accomplished since 1986 to the detriment of our economy’s growth.
But as they did with health care, Republicans are setting a dangerous course, which could result in a similar fate. Using budget rules, known as reconciliation, in order to avoid a Democratic filibuster and pass with just 51 votes, legislation can’t increase the deficit outside the budget window. So a tax bill either needs to be deficit-neutral or have at least some parts that are temporary. In order to be deficit-neutral, or paid for, tax writers on Capitol Hill will need to look under every rock to raise the revenue in as palatable manner as possible.
Did I mention tax reform hasn’t occurred since 1986? Republicans want a corporate tax rate in the teens, as low as 15%, which would add a trillion dollars to the deficit if offsets are not found. This leads to any and all special interests on the chopping block.
And as it’s said in Washington, the goal is to be at the table rather than on the menu. This will bring every special interest, including ASA, into the fold seeking to protect what’s important to our members, such as preserving the Last-in, First-out accounting method, along with items such as mortgage interest deduction and ensuring individual or pass-through rates are addressed alongside corporate rates.
Stay tuned as we prepare for a busy fall!