MADISON, Wis. (AP) – U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said Friday he doesn’t think the failure of Congress to agree on a way to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act puts tax reform in jeopardy.
The Republican said he hopes a final version of the health care plan will be approved this summer, and then Congress can turn its attention to tax reform in the fall. He acknowledged that not passing a new health care law would complicate tax reform efforts, but said it wouldn’t make it impossible.
“The way tax reform and Obamacare repeal-and-replace interact, it’s about revenues,” Ryan said during a news conference in Wisconsin. “What this would mean is we would have to keep those Obamacare taxes, most of them are health care-based taxes, off to the side while we reform the rest of the IRS tax code.”
Despite Ryan’s optimism, other Republicans have said a tax overhaul will be more difficult if Congress doesn’t move on health care changes first. Republicans’ health care bill would bring nearly $1 trillion in tax cuts that the GOP is counting on to make tax code changes that would bring in less money.
Rohit Kumar, a former tax counsel for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who is now with accounting firm PwC, has said lawmakers need to resolve health care “one way or another” before they do tax reform.
The House passed a bill in May that would repeal President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 health care law, which Republicans have vowed to undo, but the Senate has yet to vote on its version of the plan. Identical bills must be approved by Congress before going to President Donald Trump.
McConnell conceded on Thursday that Republicans may fall short. McConnell was forced to cancel a vote last week in the Senate after several Republicans objected to the bill, but he said a new version would be ready in “a week or so.”
Under the Republican plan, 22 million added Americans would be uninsured because it would eliminate Obama’s tax penalty on people who don’t buy coverage. It would also make cuts to Medicaid, which is the health insurance program for the poor, disabled and many nursing home patients.
Some Republican lawmakers have faced angry constituents about the plan during town hall meetings in their home states – but not Ryan, who has not held any public town hall meetings this year.
Instead, Ryan has opted for invite-only events – closed to the media – at businesses or in his congressional office, or private conference calls. Ryan said such meetings are more productive and that the presence of media can intimidate people, “but when we do business town halls without media, it’s very interactive.”
Ryan also said there were security concerns with public town hall meetings and that it’s difficult to have a “civil discussion” when disruptive protesters show up.
That argument was blasted by Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesman Brandon Weathersby.
“It sounds like he just doesn’t want to meet his own constituents face-to-face,” Weathersby said. “The bottom line is that the people of the 1st Congressional District want to speak with their representative in person to learn why he supports kicking his own constituents off their health care insurance plans.”
Two Democratic challengers – union ironworker Randy Bryce and Janesville School Board member Cathy Meyers – have already announced plans to run against Ryan next year.
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