Republicans are closing in on a tax overhaul with major implications for most individuals, households and the overall economy. (Here are three charts that lay out how). But the House and Senate GOP tax bills also include numerous provisions on health care, oil and gas drilling and other issues that aren’t strictly related to cutting taxes or reforming the tax code.
It’s not an unprecedented move. Lawmakers from both parties frequently tuck seemingly unrelated proposals into broad pieces of legislation, and the secondary provisions are often overlooked. Here’s a guide to some of the key non-tax issues included in the GOP tax plan.
Ending the individual mandate
Senate Republicans inserted a measure in their tax bill that would eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that most Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty. The Supreme Court upheld the mandate and other parts of former President Barack Obama’s signature health law in 2012, ruling that Congress had authority to impose the penalty through its taxation powers. In other words: The court’s decision effectively defined the penalty as a form of taxation.
Why it’s included: Eliminating the mandate would generate $338 billion in savings on health care subsidies, funding Republicans are counting on to help pay for the rest of their tax plan. But scrapping the mandate would also have a huge impact on health care. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that 13 million people could lose their health insurance by 2027, and it could also increase premiums and spur insurers to offer cheaper, less effective plans.
Oil and gas drilling in Alaska
The Senate tax bill would open part of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, to oil and gas exploration. The proposal, crafted by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, would allow oil and gas drilling on a 1.5 million acre coastal plain within the nearly 20 million-acre refuge.
Why it’s included: It would raise a projected $2 billion in revenue over a decade for Alaska and the federal government. Republican and Democrats in Alaska have called for drilling in the refuge for decades. But proposals to drill there have long been opposed by Democrats and environmental groups.
Protections for the ‘unborn child’
The House tax bill includes a provision that explicitly allows parents to use tax-free college savings plans, known as 529s, for a “child in utero.” According to the measure, “an unborn child means a child in utero.” People can already use the college savings accounts for children they do not yet have. But the current law does not specifically refer to an “unborn child.”
Why it’s included: Including the language is a victory for the pro-life movement. It has angered critics who say Republicans are using the tax bill to protect the views of abortion opponents.
Opening the (church) door to political activism
The House tax plan would also repeal the Johnson Amendment, which bans non-profit groups from engaging in political activism. President Donald Trump promised to repeal the rule during the 2016 election, saying it unfairly blocks churches in particular from political activity. Trump signed an executive order earlier this year aimed at protecting freedom of religion and free speech, which was widely viewed as a move towards ending the Johnson Amendment.
Why it’s included: The issue is popular on the right, especially among religions conservatives.
Saher Khan and Lisa Desjardins contributed reporting
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Senate tax plan included a repeal of the Johnson Amendment, and a provision for the “unborn child” in 529 savings plans. Both proposals are in the House tax plan.