- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 20, 2018

Amid the ongoing shutdown drama at the Capitol, the House on Thursday approved a $99 billion tax package that includes disaster relief provisions, repeals or delays several health care taxes, and makes changes designed to improve operations at the IRS and boost Americans’ retirement savings.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady said families affected by recent natural disasters can’t afford to wait until next year for Congress to approve new relief measures.

“This bill has key timely components, each of which will help our economy continue moving in the right direction and provide help to families and communities damaged by disaster,” said Mr. Brady, Texas Republican.

Mr. Brady made some changes to an earlier version of his tax package in a bid to win enough GOP support to get it through the House, though its prospects for passage through the Senate are uncertain at best.

The newer provisions include a repeal or delay of several Obamacare-related taxes. Those include a five-year delay of the medical device tax, a two-year delay of a health insurance tax, a one-year delay of a “Cadillac” tax on high-cost plans, and the repeal of a tanning tax.

The bill also repeals the Johnson Amendment, which restricts non-profit groups like churches from engaging in overt political activity. Democrats have long opposed repealing the provision.

Though extensions of popular but expired provisions were largely jettisoned from an earlier version, Mr. Brady said the package does include a permanent extension of a railroad track maintenance credit and an extension and eventual phase-out of a biodiesel tax credit.

The measure that passed Thursday also includes some revisions to the GOP’s $1.5 trillion tax-cut law that Congress passed in December 2017.

Democrats said that even though they could support some parts of the bill, there hasn’t been enough time to fully debate the entire package.

“A year later, we’re rushing another package through to correct the errors that were delivered in the first bill,” said Rep. Richard Neal, the Massachusetts Democrat who will chair Ways and Means when his party takes control of the House next month.

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