Biden’s Bets on Taxes and Health Care

Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

As President Biden addresses Congress and the nation tonight, he’ll be looking to sell the American public on his accomplishments and lay the groundwork for his re-election bid. You’re sure to hear about 12 million new jobs created, a 54-year low in the unemployment rate and an inflation rate that has fallen for six straight months, for example.

With new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) seated behind him and a new Republican House majority before him, Biden will revive talk of the “unity agenda” he laid out in last year’s speech and tout his bipartisanship. Legislative accomplishments will likely be much harder to come by over the next two years, but Biden will look ahead and float some policy ideas. “It wouldn’t be the State of the Union if the president didn’t propose a few pieces of fantasy legislation that stand zero chance of clearing Congress,” Morgan Chalfant writes at Semafor.

Here are a couple of key areas in which Biden will propose new policies.

TAXES

In the midst of a showdown with House Republicans over raising the debt limit, Biden will tout the deficit reduction achieved on his watch and push for additional deficit reduction “through additional reforms to ensure the wealthy and largest corporations pay their fair share,” the White House says.

That means taxes.

Biden is set to renew his push for a minimum tax on billionaires. “This minimum tax would make sure that the wealthiest Americans no longer pay a tax rate lower than teachers and firefighters,” the White House says.

Biden will also propose a quadrupling of the 1% excise tax on corporate stock buybacks enacted as part of Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act. And he will call for a renewal of the expanded Child Tax Credit that helped reduce child poverty to a historic low in 2021.

The Outlook: Republicans won’t be lining up behind these ideas, and since they now control the House, none of Biden’s proposals are likely to go anywhere beyond election talking points. The right-leaning Tax Foundation largely panned the proposals, with analysts Erica York and Alex Muresianu writing that they “signal how President Biden thinks about tax policy, and, unfortunately, the picture that emerges is one of a highly complex, narrowly targeted tax code rather than a simple, efficient, and pro-growth one.”

HEALTH CARE

Biden will boast about the record 16.3 million people who signed up for Affordable Care Act coverage this year and a national uninsured rate that fell to an all-time low. He’ll also highlight the new law that will allow the government to negotiate certain prescription drug prices, caps the cost of insulin in Medicare at $35 a month and limits annual out-of-pocket costs under Medicare Part D to $2,000 tops. And he’ll talk about how millions of Americans are now being protected from surprise medical bills for out-of-network care.

Looking forward, Biden will call on Congress to make permanent the increased subsidies for Obamacare plans, which were extended only through 2025 and which the White House says have lowered annual premiums by an average of $800 per person. He will also ask lawmakers to extend the insulin price cap to Americans with private insurance, not just those with Medicare — a plan Republicans blocked last year. And he’ll press to extend Medicaid coverage to more than 2 million more adults in 11 Republican-controlled states that have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Biden will also talk about fentanyl trafficking and efforts to reduce opioid overdose deaths. Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, told reporters that overdose numbers have fallen for five straight months. “That’s almost 3,000 people who have not died and instead are at the dinner table each night,” he said, adding that the administration will work to stop more fentanyl from entering the country, hold traffickers accountable, educate young people on the dangers of the drug and expand access to treatment.

The outlook: The ideas may be popular, but they don’t stand much chance of being enacted this year. “[T]he reality is, none of those goals will get done in a newly divided Congress with Republicans controlling the House and a slim Democratic majority in the Senate,” The Washington Post’s Rachel Roubein writes. “So instead, the speech will offer a glimpse of what a 2024 White House bid could look like with Biden touting his health accomplishments, while arguing more time is needed to see his agenda through.”

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