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Using tax legislation to overhaul Obamacare still 'being discussed,' Ryan says

President Donald Trump, flanked by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, speaks in the White House Cabinet Room on Thursday.

JABIN BOTSFORD/THE WASHINGTON POST

By ED O'KEEFE | The Washington Post | Published: November 5, 2017

Republicans are poised to begin debating details of their tax plan this week, but House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., signaled Sunday that party leaders are still mulling whether to use the proposal to end a central element of the Obama-era Affordable Care Act.

The tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee is set to begin reviewing the GOP plan on Monday in public hearings that could stretch into Thursday. But significant differences remain, and new proposals could be added. Ryan signaled that a repeal of the health law's individual mandate is still up for discussion, while a key New York Republican warned that he and other GOP lawmakers from highly taxed Northeastern states remain opposed to the legislation.

Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Ryan said that repealing the individual mandate is "one of the things that's being discussed."

"We're listening to our members about what we can do to add to this bill to make it even better," he added.

Despite the research and Trump's pleas, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said Friday that he is unlikely to add changes to health-care policy to the tax legislation, because doing so would doom its chances in the more closely divided Senate.

Meanwhile, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told ABC's "This Week" that the tax plan as written would have "a particularly devastating" effect on New York, which has some of the highest local and state taxes in the country.

"As of now, I would have to" vote against the plan, King said. He also lobbed a veiled shot at the White House, saying that in his Long Island-area swing district, "The main objection I'm getting is from Trump voters" who have voted for Democratic presidents in the past.

"You would have my voters, my constituents subsidizing other states in the country. New York does subsidize the rest of the country already. I just want to work this right now. If it's worked out, I support almost everything else in the bill," he said.

King was among 20 House Republicans who withheld support for a budget resolution last month that set the rules for the forthcoming tax debate. King and many of the others voted no because GOP leaders were planning to eliminate deductions for state and local taxes. In a bid to win back their support, the bill unveiled last week would allow taxpayers to deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes, but King and others are still holding out.

Other conservatives on Sunday expressed support for the tax overhaul.

"Failure is not an option," Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told ABC, calling the tax plan "a work in progress" that would ultimately lead to long-term economic growth, despite adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit.

"The preliminary numbers really look very good in terms of economic growth," Meadows said, adding that growth will "outweigh any short-term deficit increase."

Another conservative, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said he remains concerned about how much the GOP plan could add to the debt.

"This is something that's been a behind-the-scenes conversation for a long time. It's one thing to be able to cut taxes, it's another thing to be able to say, 'How are we going to deal with our debt and deficit?' So my main focus has been - whatever economic growth model we put in place has to be reasonable to be able to do it," Lankford told NBC's "Meet the Press."

Ryan told Fox News that he still expects the House to complete its work on the bill by Thanksgiving and, "We expect our friends in the Senate to be about a week behind us."

The Senate is poised to release its own version of a tax overhaul in the coming days, possibly as early as this week. News reports last week suggested that the Senate's tax plan would propose phasing in a new corporate tax rate of 20 percent over five years instead of immediately.

But in an interview on Fox News, Vice President Mike Pence said the new corporate tax rate "has to happen immediately. And we're going to drive and drive hard."

"We got to do it quickly so businesses ... will be able to invest growth dollars in wages and hiring more employees," Pence said on "Sunday Morning Futures."

Pence said he expects all negotiations between House and Senate leaders to be completed in time for Trump to sign a final tax plan by mid-December.

Democrats, meanwhile, rejected the GOP plan. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California described the proposal as a "Ponzi scheme" and "a "gift to corporate America."

"They spread out a banquet for the wealthiest Americans and threw some crumbs to the middle class," Pelosi said on CNN's "State of the Union."

She also accused Republicans of rushing their plan and implied that they had not adequately researched its effects before proposing it. The plan was crafted "at the speed of light, in the dark of night,' she said.

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