From Arctic tundra to church, here's what else GOP tax bills might change
The heft of the Republican tax bills lower taxes for individuals in the early years while disproportionately benefiting wealthy taxpayers and corporations.
Tucked into the legislation from both chambers, however, are measures with consequences for the environment, health care, churches and abortion rights.
As negotiators from the House and Senate prepare to hash out the final bill to send to President Donald Trump, we decided to unpack a few notable provisions tucked into each bill that didn’t receive as much attention.
The Senate tax bill opens 1.57 million acres of coastal Alaskan tundra -- in the largest wildlife refuge in the United States -- to oil and gas exploration. The drilling is expected to rake in $1 billion to the federal government over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The region has been closed to drilling, unless authorized by Congress, since 1980.
The section was introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, but was not included in the House version.
Technically, the requirement for Americans to carry health insurance is a "tax," as ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in upholding the law. But the Senate’s decision to eliminate the Obamacare individual mandate would have an enormous effect on the health care industry, as Americans could choose to not purchase health insurance without fear of penalty.
The Congressional Budget Office predicted an increase of 4 million uninsured Americans by 2019 and 13 million by 2027, along with a 10 percent annual hike in insurance premiums.
The individual mandate penalty falls disproportionately on lower- and moderate-income households.
The House version doesn’t mention the individual mandate.
College savings accounts, which are not taxed, could be opened explicitly for unborn children under the House bill. Under the bill, an unborn child is defined as a "child in utero," or "a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb."
The provision doesn’t enable college-fund savers to do anything they can’t already do for future children. But experts told us the language might erode abortion access in the future.
The Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, said: "It's a small increment in the momentum that we're building to ensure that one day every child is welcomed and protected under the law."
The Senate bill doesn’t include the unborn children language.
The House tax bill repeals the Johnson Amendment, a 1950s-era law that bans churches from endorsing political candidates.
The original law prohibits 501(c)(3) nonprofits from engaging in certain political activities, but the new bill allows churches to keep their tax-exempt status regardless of statements about political candidates made during religious services.
The Senate bill leaves the Johnson Amendment in place.
The Senate bill also removes "professional football leagues" from the description of 501(c)(6) nonprofit organizations, a long term goal of Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
This would codify into law something the National Football League has had in place for a few years; it dropped its tax-exempt status in 2015.