The House Health Care Disaster Is Really About Taxes

It’s unclear what health policy problem this bill would solve. Even for an opponent of Obamacare, it is difficult to understand why House Republicans chose this path to revamping the nation’s health care system.

.. It’s difficult to understand, that is, if you think they were passing a health care bill. It makes more sense when you realize that isn’t what they were doing at all. They were passing a tax cut — one intended to pave the way for more tax cuts.

The flaws of the bill, then, can be understood as a symptom of the flaws of the Republican Party, which has for decades maintained a myopic focus on tax cuts at the expense of nearly all else. Too often, it is a party of people who seem to confuse governing with cutting taxes.

.. Republicans have consistently had difficulty making the case for the bill on health policy merits. It’s not even clear that most House Republican lawmakers know what’s in the legislation.

.. The trick, then, is to make the health care bill’s tax cuts part of that baseline by passing them into law before a tax-reform package. This would provide Republicans with far more room to permanently cut taxes later in the year. In short, Republicans would be able to devise a tax bill that collects about $1 trillion less in revenue but that would still qualify as revenue-neutral under Senate procedure.

This is why Republicans put health care reform at the top of their agenda. Without the bill to reset the federal government’s baseline tax revenue, Republicans would be much more constrained when it came time to overhaul the tax code.

.. But the focus on tax cuts explains why they were so eager to move on an unpopular bill that they had not read and struggled to defend or even describe. And it explains why the bill is so poorly conceived as health policy.

.. Republican presidential contenders said they wouldn’t trade $1 in taxes for $10 in spending cuts? The principle applies in 2017: Tax cuts are the one thing every Republican agrees on.