This headline is not poetic embellishment, it is a disturbing statement of fact: The House Republicans are planning to vote on a major health care bill they effectively admitted they haven’t finished writing. This is what the House Energy and Commerce Committee said about their changes to their now "finished" version of American Health Care Act:
To further ensure older Americans have the help they need to access the care that’s right for them, the amendment to AHCA would provide the financing for additional support for those with high health care costs before the bill goes to the Senate. Under current law, Americans can deduct from their taxes the cost of medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of their income. Our proposed amendment reduces this threshold to 5.8 percent of income.
This change provides the Senate flexibility to potentially enhance the tax credit for those ages 50 to 64 who may need additional assistance.
People who don’t often pay attention to the legislative process may not appreciate what a big deal this is. Effectively, what House Republicans are saying is that they think they should provide an extra $75-$85 billion on tax credits to help older Americans buy insurance, but they don’t want to figure out how.
So instead of writing an amendment to increase tax credits, they wrote an amendment to alter tax deductions -- a change no one wants. The House GOP included this change because it would cost roughly $85 billion, giving the Senate "flexibility" to write their own laws.
To recap, House Republicans are planning to vote for something they don’t support in the hopes that the Senate will remove this wasteful provision and replace it with some tax credit change that costs the same amount.
Whether you agree with a law or not, it should be universally accepted that it is the job of Congress to actually write laws. Regardless of ideology or party affiliation, I would hope everyone can realize what an absurd dereliction of duty this is. Basically, the only job of our elected legislators is to turn their desired policy changes into actual legislation so it can be implemented. We need the actual legislative language to study and understand what our government plans to do.
$85 billion is a lot of money. Deciding exactly how this $85 billion is going to be spent will have massive implications for millions of people and countless businesses. For instance, simply increasing the tax credit for this age group to $7,000 would help the relatively well off, but it would leave the poor without coverage. Using it to improve credits in more expensive regions would help Alaska but do nothing for Ohio. Helping only lower-income adults would require some bureaucratic management. The examples go on.
Each of the designs would impact other parts of the bill in major ways. That is why these legislative details are so important, and choosing them is basically the sole job of members of Congress. Yet instead of spending a few more days working out these important details, House Republicans have declared they just don’t want to do their job anymore. They may have a vote on a major bill impacting millions of people tomorrow, which they admit they haven’t actually finished writing.