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Ryan Opening Statement: Markup of Tax and Health Legislation

September 17, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) delivered the following opening statement during a markup of tax and health legislation, including the EACH Act and a set of bills to make certain temporary tax provisions permanent.

“So, we’re working on seven bills today. Five of them would clean up some of the mess in our tax code. Basically, they would make temporary provisions permanent. The other two would eliminate some of the worst parts of the health care law. You might be thinking to yourself, ‘How can you tell?’ And I agree: The whole thing should go. But these two parts are pretty egregious.

“Take the first bill, the EACH Act. This would expand the religious-liberty exemption to the individual mandate. Right now, the exemption is tiny. To qualify, you have to believe, as a matter of faith, in giving up any private or public insurance—including Social Security. That includes the Amish, the Old Order Mennonites, and that’s about it. That is way too strict.

“Let’s remember the reason for the mandate. The other side said, if you get sick and don’t have insurance, the rest of us will have to pay for your health care. Okay, but we’re talking about people who don’t even use health care. Why should they have to buy insurance? I don’t think we should force anybody to buy health insurance against their will. But I think it’s especially wrong to force people to buy insurance against their faith.

“So this bill simply says, if you, as a matter of faith, don’t use health care, then you are exempt from the individual mandate. I’m glad we’re working on this long-overdue change today.

“Another long-overdue change is Ms. Jenkins’s bill. Right now, thanks to the health care law, if you have a health savings account, you can use it only to buy prescription drugs. You can’t use it to buy over-the-counter drugs. But we all know sometimes the over-the-counter drug works just as well as the prescription drug—and it can be a lot less expensive. So this bill will allow people to use their HSAs, FSAs, and other similar accounts to buy over the counter. This is just commonsense.

“Finally, we make five tax provisions permanent. These are so-called ‘temporary’ provisions that we just happen to extend every year. They exempt certain expenses from the income tax. We’re talking about teachers buying materials for their classroom . . . or small-business people refurbishing their store . . . or manufacturers buying new equipment. They aren’t earning income. They’re investing in our country. They’re investing in our children. They’re creating jobs. This is exactly what our tax code should support. And making these provisions permanent will give people the certainty they need to create more opportunity in our economy.

“Finally, I want to take a moment to recognize Laurie Coady. She is retiring after 30 years of working on the Joint Committee on Taxation. She’s spent her career working on some of the toughest issues before the Ways and Means Committee: corporate reorganizations, acquisitions, spinoffs. She has done excellent work. And so I’d ask you to join me in recognizing Laurie for her outstanding service.”