AP file photo

It's no wonder House Republicans are stuck on whether to limit the tax break for employer health coverage, as they've been discussing for their Obamacare replacement. The big problem: It's going to be hard for them to fight charges that it's a tax increase.

Republicans haven't filled in the details yet, at least publicly, but here's what happens when you try. The Congressional Budget Office did in December, and this is what it found for the most extreme scenario:

  • Deficit reduction by 2026: $426 billion.
  • People who would lose employer health coverage: 4 million.
  • Average tax break for individuals in 2026: $1,420.
  • Decrease in tax break from current law: $3,860.

You see where this is headed: Don't Tax My Health Care, a business-led lobbying coalition, is already calling that a $3,860 tax increase. There are other, more moderate options that would have smaller impacts, but it's not hard to see why the whole idea has become a political headache.

How they'll fight back: Republicans say their plan isn't going to look like the CBO scenario. They say they'd only target a small portion of the tax exclusion, which has the value of a $3.6 trillion subsidy over the next decade, and it would only affect a small group of people. And Ways and Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady has said he doesn't see it as a tax increase, because most people don't even know they get the tax break.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
7 mins ago - Economy & Business

Wall Street is living up to its bad reputation

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Recent headlines will have you convinced that Wall Street is hell-bent on living up to its reputation.

Driving the news: Goldman Sachs, of course, is the biggest and the boldest, paying more than $5 billion in fines and guarantees in the wake of the 1MDB scandal, in which billions were stolen from the people of Malaysia.

32 mins ago - Health

Ex-FDA chief: Pence campaigning after COVID exposure puts others at risk

Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said "the short answer is yes" when asked whether Vice President Mike Pence is putting others at risk by continuing to campaign after several aides tested positive for COVID-19, stressing that the White House needs to be "very explicit about the risks that they're taking."

Why it matters: The New York Times reports that at least five members of Pence's inner circle, including his chief of staff Marc Short and outside adviser Marty Obst, have tested positive for the virus. Pence tested negative on Sunday morning, according to the VP's office, and he'll continue to travel for the final stretch of the 2020 campaign.

Pence to continue traveling despite aides testing positive for COVID-19

Marc Short with Pence in March. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday and is quarantining, according to a White House statement.

Why it matters: Short is Pence's closest aide, and was one of the most powerful forces on the White House coronavirus task force. Pence and second lady Karen Pence tested negative for the virus on Sunday morning, according to the vice president's office.