This was a vote on a motion to send the major health care legislation being considered by the Senate back to the tax-writing Finance Committee that developed it. That motion included instructions that would have required the committee to make changes in the bill to guarantee that people making less than $200,000 a year, or $250,000 as a couple, do not pay any more taxes as a result of the legislation. The motion was made by Sen. Crapo (R-ID).
Sen. Crapo noted that President Obama had consistently claimed that no individual making less than $200,000 a year, or couple making less than $250,000, would have any taxes increased if the major health care legislation passed. He also noted that the Congressional Joint Tax Committee had found that “73 million (households will) . . . see a tax increase under this bill and not just a small one. It is massive, hundreds of billions of dollars of new taxes that will be imposed by this bill.”
Crapo also noted that supporters of the health care legislation claim “this bill is a tax cut.” He argued: “The only way they can say this bill is a tax cut is by looking at the subsidy that is going to be provided as (in fact) a tax cut. It is called a refundable tax credit, although three-fourths of it . . . goes to people who do not pay taxes . . . The Congressional Budget Office says these aren't tax cuts . . . The only way you can say this bill involves these kinds of tax cuts is if you say that a provision that will simply result in the payment of a check by the federal government to individuals who have no tax liability to assist them with their health care costs is a tax cut.”
Sen. Baucus (D-MT), who chairs the Finance Committee, opposed the motion. He agreed that President Obama had promised that no individual making less than $200,000 a year would have any taxes increased if the major health care legislation passed, and then claimed “This bill keeps his promise.” He said that the legislation provided “tax credits to help American families, workers, and small businesses to buy quality health insurance plans through new fair and competitive marketplaces called insurance exchanges.”
Baucus cited Congressional Budget Office figures indicating that it “expects that by the year 2019, 25 million Americans will buy health insurance plans through the new exchanges.” Baucus then claimed: “The vast majority of those Americans . . . will receive tax credits; that is, tax reductions, or help paying their copays and other out-of-pocket costs. These tax credits will reduce their health insurance costs by nearly 60 percent.” Baucus added: “This bill does not raise taxes on the middle class. This bill is a tax cut for Americans . . . .”
Crapo said he heard Sen. Baucus “say the bill complies with (the President’s) pledge. If that were true, then there would be no harm in having the Finance Committee scour through it and make sure it does and refer the bill back to make sure it doesn't tax the middle class. The reality is, it is very clear this legislation violates this pledge of the President. As a matter of fact, there are over $493 billion of new taxes in this bill meant to offset the $2.5 trillion during the first full 10 years of implementation of spending in the bill.”
The motion to send the back to committee failed by a vote of 45-54. All forty Republicans and five Democrats voted “aye”. All fifty-four “nay” votes were cast by Democrats. As a result, the Senate continued deliberations on the health care bill without sending it back to the Finance Committee to add the proposed language.