House Republicans on Thursday passed a massive tax cut, $1.5 trillion dollars, for corporations and wealthy Americans. Incredibly, the House of Representatives conducted no hearings before the passing of the measure.
Now, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has revealed that the bill also includes an estimated $25 billion cut to Medicare and some lawmakers are sounding the alarm.
With the Senate expected to take up its own bill after the Thanksgiving recess, Democrats are ready to mount a strong opposition to the bill over its controversial health care impacts —including the Medicare cuts and the elimination of the medical expenses deduction in the House bill.
These cuts would violate President Trump’s repeated campaign promises not to touch Medicare and other social safety net programs. But for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and other lawmakers who have for decades longed for an opportunity to cut to Medicare and other federal benefits, the cuts would be a feature they want to keep.
The Medicare cut can only be waived by a majority of the House and a 60-vote supermajority of the Senate.
The CBO’s announcement this week has also raised the hackles of the influential AARP, who wrote to Congress on behalf of their 38 million members in opposition to the bill.
Several lawmakers, including Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), are already sounding the alarm.
“The large increase in the deficit will inevitably lead to calls for greater spending cuts, which are likely to include dramatic cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other critical programs serving older Americans,” they warned. “The Congressional Budget Office has now published a letter stating that unless Congress takes action, H.R. 1 will result in automatic federal funding cuts of $136 billion in fiscal year 2018, $25 billion of which must come from Medicare.”
In a letter to the House Freedom Caucus on Thursday, Van Hollen demanded to know if they would vote to waive the budget rules if the tax bill became law.
His letter reads:
“This sequestration under Statutory PAYGO would harm Americans across the country. “Seniors on Medicare might have fewer choices for health care providers. Farmers would suddenly lose the safety net provided by price support programs that help farms stay in business when prices are low. Rural investment would decline due to a loss of support for agricultural research and business loans in rural areas. Meals on Wheels would no longer receive funding from the Social Services Block Grant. People with disabilities would lose the support provided by vocational rehabilitation grants that help them stay in the workforce. And there would be huge disruptions of travel and trade into the United States due to sequestration cuts within Citizenship and Immigration Services and Customs and Border Protection.”