In it, but not of it. TPM DC

A key House Republican on the issue of Social Security introduced a bill Thursday that would impose major cuts to the program. The bill, the Social Security Reform Act of 2016, was introduced by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX), the chair of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security.

It would, among other things, gradually raise the retirement age from 67 to 69 on Americans 49 or younger at the present. It would change the formula that determines the size of a retiree's initial payments. And it would switch the program to a less generous formula for raising payments according to cost of living increases.

Big picture, the most concerning element for many experts is that its approach to make the program more solvent rest entirely on cuts, and does not raise revenues for the Social Security Trust Fund, as some bipartisan proposals have. Across the political spectrum, solutions for long term solvency range from cuts-only approaches like Johnson's bill to plans that achieve 75-year solvency by raising the current income cap on social security taxes.

"Ultimately, we are going to need something that's a little more balanced between benefits saving and revenue changes in order to get a proposal that could pass Congress and get approved by the president," said Shai Akabas, director fiscal policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

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Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement — which health care policy experts predict could cost 30 million people their health insurance — will also bring a major tax break for high-income Americans.

Two taxes that will be presumably axed with the law affect only those making $200,000 or more. The break the ACA repeal will bring to those taxpayers will amount to a $346 billion tax cut in total over 10 years, according to the CBO report on the 2015 repeal legislation GOP lawmakers say they’ll be using as their model next year.

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A must-pass spending bill hit a snag Thursday as some Senate Democrats are banding together against the legislation unless a year-long protection for miners health care benefits is included.

How exactly they plan to ensure the miner's get the benefits is still unclear.

The continuing resolution to fund the federal government until the end of April was expected to easily pass the House of Representatives Thursday as members were anxious to skip town and get back home for the holidays, but the bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

The hold-up is over health care benefits for retired miners. The benefits help more than 20,000 coal miners and their widows. The current continuing resolution includes just a four-month extension of those benefits, and Democrats want to see more.

According to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Democrats left a caucus meeting Thursday afternoon in agreement that they would stand against any spending bill that did not include an extension of the benefits for at least a year.

"These mine workers are going to be worried going into Christmas that their health care ends on December 31st. We do four more months and they worry again in the first quarter of the year. That's not the way to live. None of us would want to live that way. Nobody wants to live that way," Brown said.

Democrats would not say if they planned to vote against cloture, the procedural vote that requires 60 votes for senators to get onto a bill. If Democrats did vote against cloture it could lead to a government shutdown.

"We haven't made a final decision on that," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) told reporters on the question of if Democrats would vote against cloture on the CR.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) told the Washington Post, “I want to shut her down. I mean this is ridiculous. We need an extension to the CR until people come to their senses. You can’t throw 16,000 people out.”

Democrats also want to see a stronger "buy America" provision that requires that the U.S. government only funds projects that use American-made steel. The provision had been included, but was scrapped by House Republican leaders despite the fact that it's been a popular refrain from President-elect Donald Trump.

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Members of the House progressive caucus on Thursday railed against President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet picks. Caucus co-chair Keith Ellison (D-MN), who is also running for chairman of the Democratic National Committee, described the Trump nominees as "representing a very disturbing trend."

"With only a few exceptions, the individuals that President-elect Trump has appointed is the greatest collection of stooges and cronies and misfits we have ever seen in a presidential administration," Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) said at a press conference hosted by a handful of the caucus' members.

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Additional reporting by Lauren Fox

Congressional Republicans didn’t want to help insurers when the health care market was transitioning into Obamacare. Now they’ll have to decide how much they’ll be willing to help insurers as they plan the country’s transition out of the Affordable Care Act, which GOP leaders say will be repealed as soon as they convene a new Congress.

With the GOP planning to repeal Obamacare with a two- or three-year delay so they can work on a replacement, a key question is what kind of life rafts they can throw to insurers, who will have no incentive to stay in the ACA individual exchanges carriers know are doomed. Among the proposals insurers are asking Congress to consider are the very programs that Republicans spent six years railing against—and in some cases obstructing legislatively—as “taxpayer funded bailouts.”

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A major trade group for insurers took the unusual step of going public with what it is demanding of Republicans considering a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

In a list of proposals released Tuesday, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) said that in light of "significant changes" the Affordable Care Act will see, the group was highlighting the "key principles that, if followed, will help ensure a stable, competitive market that delivers real choice, high quality, and affordable care." Their requests anticipate a GOP Obamacare repeal maneuver that health care policy experts warn will destabilize the individual insurance market, even if lawmakers include a delay of the repeal provisions in the bill they push early next year.

"We still have more questions than answers,” AHIP president and CEO Marilyn Tavenner told the New York Times. “We don’t want to disrupt individuals who are relying on our coverage.”

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If Republicans go through with their plan to dismantle the Affordable Care Act using a similar model as their failed 2015 Obamacare repeal, the number of uninsured would double, a new report by the Urban Institute report warns. Taking into account the two or so year delay GOP lawmakers say they will include in the repeal bill, the non-partisan think tank estimates that in 2019 the number of uninsured nonelderly people would rise from about 29 million to nearly 59 million. The report also notes that since the 2015 version of the legislation repealed the individual mandate right away while delaying other repeal aspects, some impacts of the version the GOP might pass could be felt right away.

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Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told the Washington Post that he will not help Republicans replace the Affordable Care Act if they follow through with a strategy to repeal the law immediately and then replace it down the road.

“We’re not going to do a replacement,” Schumer told the Washington Post. “If they repeal without a replacement, they will own it. Democrats will not then step up to the plate and come up with a half-baked solution that we will partially own. It’s all theirs."

Schumer's comments come as Republicans remain divided on the best strategy to replace the health care law. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that the Senate would repeal the law as their first order of business in 2017, but it is unclear how Republicans plan to come up with and implement a replacement. It is very likely that Republicans will need 60 votes to implement a replacement, and thus Democratic help, according to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

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