House panel to consider tax, O'care bills

The House Ways and Means Committee will consider a string of tax and ObamaCare-related measures on Thursday, including a bill that would permanently give businesses a massive tax cut on their investments.

The seven bills also include proposals to allow a religious exemption from the individual mandate for insurance in the Affordable Care Act, and repeal an ObamaCare provision that bans people from using health savings accounts to buy over-the-counter medications.

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In addition to the business expensing measure, the tax-writing committee will also take up four other bills that would permanently install tax provisions set to expire at the end of this year. 

Known as bonus depreciation, the business expensing measure generally allows companies to write off half of certain purchases immediately. Supporters, including business groups, GOP lawmakers and some Democrats, say giving companies more reasons to expand can only help the economy.

The House also passed a permanent extension of the incentive last year, at a cost of $287 billion over a decade. 

Congress has sparred for more than a year now over how to deal long-term with more than 50 tax incentives known as extenders. 

House Republicans have pushed to extend more than a couple of the temporary provisions for good, arguing that would put an end to the start-and-stop process that Congress has used for years.

They've also rejected the Democratic argument that their approach causes a spike in budget deficits, insisting that lawmakers shouldn't have to find ways to offset the costs of longstanding tax provisions.

The Senate Finance Committee is taking a different approach, passing a measure in July that would extend dozens of the temporary tax breaks for two years.

Some Democrats additionally have argued that bonus depreciation, which first went into effect during George W. Bush's presidency, is no longer needed to spur the economy, and wasn't all that successful to begin with.

GOP presidential candidates like Jeb Bush have also called for generous expensing rules.

The other tax bills that Ways and Means will consider would extend tax breaks to teachers who buy supplies, depreciation rules for restaurants and key provisions for multinational corporations.