Politics bog down health care bill in Senate and FAA extension in House

House fails to pass FAA bill with hurricane tax relief measures in it.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), accompanied by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaks with reporters following the party luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Another Republican attempt to dismantle Obamacare collapsed in the Congress on Tuesday as the party was unable to win enough party support for the Graham Cassidy bill to repeal the health care reform law. Several Republican senators said there will be no vote in the Senate after some lawmakers withheld support for the measure.

“We basically ran out of time,” said Senator Ron Johnson. Trump said on Tuesday his administration was disappointed in “certain so-called Republicans” who did not support the bill.

Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority in the Senate and three Republican senators, John McCain, Rand Paul, and Susan Collins rejected the bill. Republicans have tried for years to get rid of Obamacare but they were up against a Sept. 30 deadline to pass a bill with a simple majority, or face a much tougher path toward dismantling it.

Senator Pat Roberts, another Republican, told reporters the party would target healthcare “in some form” later in the current legislative session.

While the nation watched the drama unfold in the Senate, the U.S. House was facing a partisan battle of its own.  On Monday, lawmakers failed to approve a bill to allow the Federal Aviation Administration to continue to operate and also a package of tax relief bills to aid hurricane victims after ranking Democrats objected.

Authorization for the FAA is set to expire on Saturday. The bill would have extended the agency for another six months as Congress debates whether to privatize the country’s air traffic control system and considers new airline passenger protections. The bill, which was considered under fast-track rules that require two-thirds of members to support it, failed on a 245-to-171 margin.

House Democratic leaders on Monday had urged their colleagues to oppose the measure, citing Republicans’ decision to only extend some health care programs and refusing to allow them to add the DREAM Act as an amendment. The DREAM Act would allow recipients of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to remain in the country. Last month President Donald Trump ordered DACA to end in six months

DACA is a program launched under executive order by former president Barack Obama that shielded 800,000 people from deportation who are in the country illegally because they were brought in as children. When Democrats wanted to add the DREAM Act as an amendment on the FAA bill, House leadership refused, saying a DACA fix will be a separate piece of legislation.

“It is a sad day when House Democrats will — in the name of politics — vote against disaster relief and air traffic safety measures,” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement. “It’s shameful that politics will trump meaningful relief for families suffering from these devastating hurricanes. House Democrats are willing to shut down air traffic control to make a political point.”

Trump in March proposed handing over control of U.S. air traffic control to a privately operated board, but has faced resistance among Democrats and owners of private planes. Major U.S. carriers, including American Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways, all back the privatization proposal.

The bill would have also extended three health care programs, but would not extend the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which is expected to run out of money in 2018, because leadership said addressing the program would have to be a part of the overall health care debate.

“Democrats support reauthorization of the FAA, which is long overdue as a result of Republicans’ failure to craft a bill that can obtain bipartisan majority support,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. “It is outrageous that the majority is hijacking the must-pass FAA bill as a vehicle for its pet priorities.”

The bill also contains a provision that would make it easier for people with hurricane losses to write them off on their taxes, eliminating a requirement that personal losses must exceed 10 percent of adjusted gross income to qualify for a deduction. Disaster-affected employers would also get a tax credit for 40 percent of wages, up to $6,000 per employee.

It would also give hurricane victims penalty-free access to retirement funds and temporarily suspends limitations on the deduction for charitable contributions to hurricane relief made before year-end.

Another provision of the bill would encourage the creation of private flood insurance markets to provide consumers with more coverage options. Democrats said it “does nothing to address stability of the [National Flood Insurance Program] either by increasing its borrowing authority, extending its reauthorization, or addressing affordability.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Claif.) said in a statement after the vote the House will take up the issue again.

“It didn’t take long for Democrats to snap back into their partisan corner,” McCarthy said. “The American people can’t stand this nonsense.”

Reuters News Service contributed to this report.