Year-end Congressional Debates Center on Tax Reform, Individual Mandate, Federal Budget, CHIP Reauthorization

Due to concerns with the cost of the U.S. Senate Republican tax bill, which has been heavily debated this week, a vote on the measure originally scheduled for November 30 was postponed until 11 a.m. on December 1. The Senate GOP's extensive rewrite of the U.S. tax code calls for, among other provisions, repealing the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. This would lead to millions of Americans--including nearly 400,000 Michiganders--losing coverage and a potential destabilization of the individual insurance marketplace. Also included in the bill are tax cuts that could trigger across-the-board spending reductions, including significant cuts to Medicare.

Neither of Michigan's U.S. Senators, Debbie Stabenow nor Gary Peters, support the Republican tax bill as it's currently written. In response to the Senate Finance Committee's passage of the bill on November 16, Senator Stabenow, in a press release, said, "I voted no because I could not support raising taxes on middle income taxpayers and leaving Michigan families without health insurance to pay for huge tax giveaways for the wealthiest one percent of Americans."

The House passed its version of tax reform, strictly along party lines, on November 16.

Meanwhile, Congress must pass a spending bill in some form by December 8 to keep the government running, and it also continues to debate reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), whose funding lapsed on September 30. It is anticipated that, in the absence of any Congressional action, funding for CHIP, which in Michigan is referred to as MIChild will be depleted as early as May of 2018.