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Morgan Griffith: Tax reform update

morgan griffithThe House Ways and Means Committee recently released its bill to reform the tax code and started to mark up the bill on Nov. 6. During the markup, the committee debates this legislation and considers amendments offered by any member of the committee. The whole House is expected to vote on the bill before Thanksgiving.

The present tax code imposes too high a burden on the middle class. It also encourages businesses to send their operations to foreign countries and punishes them if they want to bring money made overseas back to the United States.

I support the tax framework previously laid out by the Trump Administration and congressional leadership. That being said, I am still studying the bill text put forward by Ways and Means. As I do so, I will be guided by two principles above all: reform needs to promote job creation, and it must let families keep more of their hard-earned money.

 

CHIP

On November 3, a vast majority of Republicans and a handful of Democrats in the House of Representatives passed a bill authorizing for five years funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). There has been a lot of discussion in recent weeks about the future of this program, which provides health coverage to targeted low-income children and pregnant women in families above the income threshold for Medicaid eligibility but without health insurance. Considering this heightened interest, I think it’s important to set the record straight about CHIP’s current status.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, on which I serve, made authorizing CHIP a priority. In this bill, we also included for two years reauthorization of Federally Qualified Health Centers, commonly known as community health centers. We found ways to fund this reauthorization without increasing the colossal national debt. For example, one of the “pay-fors” would require Medicare beneficiaries with incomes over $500,000, or $875,000 for a couple, to pay more of their premiums for Medicare Parts B and D. Please note that this is over $500,000 in income, not assets, so savings themselves or the family farm would not count. This proposal simply asks that seniors who are still bringing in a considerable income, in fact more than ten times the median household income of the Ninth District, pay a little more. I agreed with very few of President Obama’s proposals, but he actually included this measure in each of his budget proposals for fiscal years 2013-2017, and this one strikes me as an acceptable way to avoid further strain on our national finances.

         

When the reauthorization bill came to the floor, however, most Democrats voted against the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Throughout negotiations over advancing CHIP funding, congressional Democrats refused to accept these proposed offsets. The clock ticked away, and at their request, we delayed the floor action on the bill in the hope that an agreement could be reached. In the meantime, as pressure to assure that Children’s Health Insurance Program and Federally Qualified Health Centers funding would continue, Democrats outside the Beltway like Terry McAuliffe urged us to move forward and pass a bill.

Although the authorization for CHIP expired on September 30, most states have a buffer period. In fact, the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission projects that Virginia has CHIP funds until March 2018.

The delay in reauthorizing CHIP didn’t occur because anyone wanted to do away with children’s health coverage. It occurred because some of us offered a plan to fund CHIP in a fiscally-responsible way, which others didn’t like but refused to match with a fiscally-prudent proposal of their own.

In CHIP’s 20-year history, the program had always garnered strong bipartisan support, and we sought in good faith to continue this tradition. It is unfortunate that most members of the minority did not agree. But the House has passed a bill funding CHIP.

It is now up to the Senate to act.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office.  You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.

 
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