Republican tax bill to be voted on this week
It's amazing how the prospect of being hung concentrates the mind.
Following a bad night at the polls last Tuesday, Republicans in the House are poised to vote on an historic tax reform package that promises to lower corporate tax rates significantly and reduce personal tax rates for almost all Americans.
Sniping against the bill by the GOP has fallen off as Republicans realize this is must pass legislation. Currently, the number of GOP House members who have indicated they will vote against the bill is in the single digits, assuring that the bill will pass and move on to the Senate where the real battle begins.
“I do believe that the momentum continues to move us forward,” Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, told The Hill.
He said Republicans can’t afford to hold off the bill after the failure to approve ObamaCare repeal. Last week’s losses in off-year elections across the country just added urgency for Republicans.
“It will be difficult for members who voted against ObamaCare repeal to go 0-for-2 on their campaign promises,” Walker said. “I’d look for a huge vote.”
An amendment Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) added to the bill on Thursday bolsters the odds of a successful House vote.
The amendment created a new 9-percent tax rate for some small-business income — earning the support of the National Federation of Independent Business, which panned the initial House bill. It also restored the adoption tax credit, a top priority for conservatives.
“It definitely made the bill stronger,” said Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.), a member of both GOP leadership and the tax committee.
Brady noted that these changes were inspired by the suggestions of GOP lawmakers on the committee. He said he heard from every one of the panel’s Republicans that they needed to provide more help from small businesses, and he noted that Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Mike Kelly(R-Pa.) have been big champions of the adoption tax credit.
Following the markup, Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee were upbeat.
It should be noted that those amendments that have been included in order to gain more votes are not offset by additional savings. It only makes the process to pass a tax bill in the Senate that much harder, where some conservatives have expressed alarm at how much tax reform will add to the budget deficit over the next 10 years.
There are other differences in the Senate bill, released on Thursday, that could be deal breakers for House members.
The Senate bill fully repeals the state and local tax deduction. That would be unacceptable to many House Republicans from blue states, including some who appear likely to vote for the House bill.
And some aspects of the Senate bill may not be well received from conservatives in the House. The Senate measure fails to repeal the estate tax and delays until 2019 cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. The House bill slashes the corporate rate more immediately.
“To me, that is the biggest conflict between the House version and the Senate version,” Walker said in the interview.
He and other GOP sources said there could be some minor, last-minute changes to the House bill before it gets a final vote, especially as House leaders pore over the details of the Senate proposal.
“I still think there are a few tweaks and adjustments to be made” Walker said.
Ryan made it clear that if both chambers pass tax bills, they would go to a conference committee rather than the House simply voting on the Senate’s measure.
For the House and Senate to come to an agreement in conference, there is going to have to be strong leadership from the White House. As it stands now, the two sides are miles apart and only the president will be able to knock heads together in order to get a finished product. Trump has shown some flexibility on tax issues in the past, which brightens the outlook for final passage.
But the differences between House and Senate Republicans on tax reform are both ideological and philosophical. Given the absolute political necessity to pass some kind of tax relief, the odds are improving that they will eventually get it done.