Senators Clash Over Last Minute Changes to Tax Bill

WASHINGTON — Republican and Democratic senators clashed on Wednesday morning over changes the Republicans made to their sweeping tax legislation late Tuesday night, as the momentum behind the tax overhaul showed no signs of slowing with votes expected in both chambers of Congress later this week.

Democrats attacked Republicans for inserting a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that most people have health insurance into the tax bill and for imposing a 2025 expiration date for individual tax cuts, while making the corporate tax cuts permanent.

“This bill seems to get worse by the hour,” said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. “This is not just another garden variety attack on the Affordable Care Act, this is a repeal of that law.”

Repealing the health law’s so-called individual mandate allows Republicans to save more than $300 billion over 10 years. According to the Congressional Budget Office, 13 million fewer people would be insured after a decade without the mandate and health insurance premiums would rise by about 10 percent per year over that time.

Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, the Republican chairman of the finance committee, downplayed the move to make the individual tax cuts temporary, not mentioning that change in an opening statement in which he defended his party’s right to undo the mandate. He later suggested that Republicans would be unlikely to resist if Democrats wanted to help them make the those cuts permanent after they expire.

“We’ll hear claims that the inclusion of the individual mandate tax relief is some kind of process foul and that we’ve somehow expanded the scope of the markup by including it in the modification,” Mr. Hatch said. “As we reiterated several times yesterday, the individual mandate is a tax.”

Mr. Hatch and Mr. Wyden raised their voices and spoke over each other as they clashed over the injection of health care into the tax debate, with Mr. Hatch at one point demanding that his leadership of the committee be respected.

“Let me be in charge of this committee, not you,” Mr. Hatch said.

The third day of debate over the tax bill in the Senate Finance Committee comes ahead of an expected vote by the panel on Friday. The full Senate is expected to vote on the bill after Thanksgiving while the full House is expected to vote on its bill on Thursday.

With President Trump having returned from Asia on Tuesday night, the administration has been actively pressing members of Congress to put any differences aside and get behind the bill.

Big rifts remain between the House and Senate tax bills, with the Senate’s repeal of the state and local tax deduction and the mandate being the most significant areas of disagreement.

Paul D. Ryan, the House speaker, said on CNBC on Wednesday morning that the House is not yet prepared to make changes on its legislation to accommodate the Senate in those areas.

“Of course we don’t like the individual mandate,” Mr. Ryan said. “But right now we’re just purely focused on tax reform from the tax code side.”

Content originally published on https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/15/us/politics/senate-house-tax-cut.html by ALAN RAPPEPORT