Boehner: ‘American economy is on the line’

Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012 @ 3:00 PM
Updated: Thursday, November 29, 2012 @ 3:00 PM

            House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, after private talks with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on the fiscal cliff negotiations. Boehner said no substantive progress has been made between the White House and the House
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, after private talks with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on the fiscal cliff negotiations. Boehner said no substantive progress has been made between the White House and the House" in the past two weeks. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)(J. Scott Applewhite)

Declaring that the “American economy is on the line,’’ House Speaker John Boehner Thursday called on President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats to “get serious’’ about cutting federal spending as part of a major budget deal.

A pessimistic sounding Boehner, emerging from a meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, said that he was “disappointed in where we are,” referring to the process of avoiding the combination of tax increases and spending cuts at the end of the year, popularly called the fiscal cliff.

“Going over the fiscal cliff is serious business.” said Boehner, R-West Chester Twp. “I’m here seriously trying to resolve it.”

Boehner insisted that tax revenue is on the table, but only if there are “serious spending cuts” as part of the agreement between Democrats and Republicans.

The problem is, according to Boehner, that “(the Republicans) have no idea what the White House is willing to do.” In a shot at Obama, Boehner said “this is a moment for adult leadership,’’ saying that “campaign-style rallies and one-sided leaks are not a way to get things done here in Washington.”

Boehner was referring to Obama’s planned trip to Pennsylvania Friday to rally support for his plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest of Americans as part of a deal to avoid going over the cliff at the end of the year. Obama wants the 2001 and 2003 income and investment tax cuts to expire for families earning more than $250,000 a year.

Boehner himself asserted that he is serious about doing everything he can to avoid putting American jobs and the American economy at risk.

“And I hope the White House will get serious as well,” he said.

Senate moves forward on budget, still stalled on Obama health law

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 8:05 AM

With the strong support of President Donald Trump, the U.S. Senate was poised on Thursday to approve a budget framework for 2018 that would authorize an expedited effort in Congress on tax reform, but the President’s public reluctance had seemingly scrapped quick action on a separate bipartisan deal involving a small piece of the Obama health law, a move that experts say will cost the federal government billions more in health spending.

On the Senate floor, the emphasis for GOP Senators has not been on their budget outline, which would bring the budget to balance in nine years, but rather on the tax reform, the first real effort to rewrite the Internal Revenue Code since 1986.

“Because as we all know, our archaic tax code is a significant roadblock standing in the way of America’s economic future,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Despite some reservations from GOP Senators, McConnell looks to have the votes to push through this budget plan later today.

As for the President, he continues to press the case for tax reform, though in recent days he has been mentioning tax cuts much more than reform.

“Let’s give our country the biggest Christmas present of all,” the President said in a speech earlier this week. “Massive tax relief.”

“It will be the largest tax cut in the history of our country,” Mr. Trump told a bipartisan group of Senators that he called to the White House on Wednesday.

The exact details of that tax plan remain under wraps at this point; the emerging plan seems to bee one where the House and Senate will finish work on the budget outline for next year, and then reveal the tax bill – most likely in November – and move quickly to vote on it in the House by Thanksgiving.

As for health care, there had been hope earlier this week that the Senate could move swiftly to approve a bipartisan deal to address certain payments to health insurance companies under the Obama health law – but that seems to have run aground, after the President went from supporting the plan, to opposing it, in less than 24 hours.

One issue seems to be the complexity of the underlying Obama health law – it sounds simple enough to argue that if you cut off the “Cost Sharing Reduction” payments to insurance companies, then that should save money for Uncle Sam.

But as I wrote earlier in the week, doing that only means other subsidies kick in, and actually cause the feds to spend billions more.

The Congressional Budget Office has projected that the extra cost would be $194 billion over ten years.

Trump tells senators in meeting over tax bill: “We’ll fix it”

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 4:58 PM
Updated: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 4:58 PM

            Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said after his first meeting with Donald Trump in the White House that the president vowed to push for a bipartisan tax bill that cuts taxes for the middle class.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said after his first meeting with Donald Trump in the White House that the president vowed to push for a bipartisan tax bill that cuts taxes for the middle class.

Ohio’s two senators felt cautiously optimistic about Congress’ chances of passing comprehensive tax reform Wednesday after a morning meeting at the White House with Republicans and Democrats from the Senate Finance Committee.

The group, which included Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman of Ohio, huddled with President Donald Trump to push their respective priorities for tax reform.

RELATED: Trump proposes most sweeping tax overhaul in 30 years

Speaking briefly at the beginning of the meeting, Trump said the current proposal would increase the child tax credit, end the estate tax and cut the business tax rate to no more than 20 percent.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, in my opinion,” said Trump, adding that “the timing is right.”

Brown, a Democrat who has found common ground with Trump on some trade and U.S. manufacturing issues, used the meeting to push for the increase of the child tax credit — something Trump’s daughter Ivanka has advocated — as well as expanding and increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit.

He also pushed to advance a proposal he’s authored to reward companies that keep jobs in the United States.

RELATED: Portman meets with business leaders about tax reform

Afterward, Brown said it was the first time he’s been to visit Trump at the White House.

He was encouraged by the conversation. Trump, Brown said, “says this is about a middle class tax break that doesn’t give the richest one percent a tax break.”

However, he said he’s concerned that the framework released by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would benefit the very rich. He said he’s hopeful that Trump will stick with the principles outlined in the meeting.

“I think he could make a deal with the Democrats and there would still be a bill he’d be happy with,” said Brown, adding that the president used the words “bipartisan” and “middle class” several dozen times during the meeting.

“He kept saying that’s what he wants to do,” Brown said. “And we kept pointing out that the bill doesn’t exactly do that, and he said, ‘we’ll fix it.’”

Portman, meanwhile, called the meeting “productive.”

Both parties, he said, “agreed tax reform should focus on helping middle-class families, and that’s what our plan does.”

“Our tax reform framework will help create more jobs, increase wages, and encourage more investment and opportunities in America,” Portman said after the meeting. “I remain optimistic that, by working together, we can simplify and reform our outdated tax code on behalf of middle-class families and small businesses.”

Portman on controversial DEA bill: ‘It slipped through’

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 4:30 PM
Updated: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 4:15 PM

            Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

Sen. Rob Portman Wednesday said he was unaware of the details of a 2016 bill that effectively quashed the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to stop distributors from sending prescription drugs to doctors’ offices and pharmacies that fed the opioid epidemic.

The law passed by unanimous consent — a voice vote, with no members of the House or Senate opposing it. While members of the DEA and Justice Department told Washington Post and 60 Minutes reporters that they opposed the legislation, no one in Portman’s office was aware of the agencies’ concerns, he told a Washington Post panel convened Wednesday to discuss the epidemic.

“I frankly asked my office, ‘Did we hear from anybody?’ and the answer was no,” the Ohio Republican said.

RELATED: Congress investigating local drug distributor

Portman said the bill went through Congress at the same time his own drug treatment bill — the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act — went through Congress, and much of the focus was on that bill. The DEA bill, he said, “sort of slipped through.”

Speaking with Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Joe Manchin, D-W.V., Portman said he and other senators plan to review the law, which effectively made it far tougher for the DEA to crack down on those pouring pain pills into communities. Portman has focused heavily on drug addiction issues dating back to his time in the House of Representatives, and during his 2016 re-election campaign for the Senate he ran ads highlighting his work fighting the opioid epidemic.

RELATED: Former drug czar nominee defends roll in opioid law

The Post story is largely credited with causing Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., to withdraw his name from nomination to be the nation’s next drug czar. Marino was a leading cosponsor of the 2016 bill, as was Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican who is now running for governor.

Portman wasn’t the only one who said he was unaware of the implications of the bill Wednesday. Manchin said his staff was “not intricately involved” and was told it was aimed at ensuring that cancer patients and the terminally ill had access to pain relief — not that it could make it harder for the DEA to crack down on those purposefully dealing pills.

RELATED: Portman wants opioid money added to health care bill

“We never intended it to be a wholesale market to open up the floodgates,” he said. “Because in West Virginia, the floodgates were already open.”

Manchin has cosponsored a bill aimed at repealing the 2016 law. “No one intended for this to happen,” he said.

Trump leaves both parties confused on Senate health care deal

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 12:49 PM

A day after seemingly endorsing a legislative effort in Congress to formally approve money for insurance companies that would pay for health insurance subsidies for certain consumers, President Donald Trump indicated on Wednesday that while he backed the idea of bipartisan negotiations related to the Obama health law, he did not support a deal on “Cost Sharing Reduction” payments, .

“If something can happen that’s fine,” Mr. Trump told reporters at a White House photo op, as he made clear that he wants to stop insurance subsidy payments that go to health insurers.

“I won’t do anything to enrich the insurance companies,” the President said. “They’ve been enriched by Obamacare like nothing anyone has ever seen before.”

The statements left lawmakers on Capitol Hill wondering whether Mr. Trump would help push the plan through the Congress, or if it would galvanize more conservative opponents, as in less than 24 hours, the President had gone from supportive, to mildly unimpressed, to seemingly opposed to the plan.

“He called Murray-Alexander deal a very good solution,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer. “Now this morning, he says he can’t support it.”
“He keeps zigging and zagging,” Schumer complained in a frustrated, and almost exasperated tone on the floor of the Senate, as he urged the President to be consistent when it comes to legislation in Congress.

“Our only hope is, maybe tomorrow, he’ll be for this again,” Schumer added.

As the President pinballed back and forth on the Senate CSR payments deal, it wasn’t clear what the Congress might do on the matter, as conservative groups urged GOP leaders not to accept the plan, saying it only tweaks the Obama health law, and not in a good way.

“This is a bailout for health insurance companies,” the group Freedom Works said in a morning news release.

Health insurance experts were still debating the Senate plan, unsure of all of its impacts, especially since there was no final bill draft at this point – and no plan for any vote on it, either.