GOP lawmakers are finally ready to put their pencils down after racing against the clock to rewrite America’s tax code and get a bill to President Donald Trump’s desk in time for Christmas.
A joint House and Senate committee began signing a final conference report late Friday morning – effectively locking in language of a tax overhaul that to this point remains shrouded in secrecy. Democrats earlier in the week complained that they were relying on news reports and lobbyists to keep up with quickly changing details that their GOP colleagues have refused to share.
Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., indicated on Friday that the bill’s child tax credit had been expanded to $1.400 in a bid to win over Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, two recently announced holdouts.
Timing, Details Up in the Air as GOP Sprints to Tax Finish Line
It wasn’t immediately clear if the move would placate Lee and Rubio, who took issue with the fact that the corporate tax rate was nudged up to 21 percent from a previously proposed 20 percent to help offset a reduced tax rate on the wealthiest earners in the U.S. Rubio and Lee had previously sponsored an amendment that would have set the corporate rate at 20.94 percent to expand the child tax credit, but that measure was voted down in the Senate.
It’s also rumored that the final bill will retain but double the threshold at which the estate tax kicks in while providing slightly more flexibility for Americans to deduct state and local taxes than under previous drafts.
Lawmakers were also considering a sunset provision that would end most of the changes to the individual income side of the tax code in 2024. But with the final bill still under wraps, it wasn’t immediately clear if that proposal made the cut.
Report: Rubio a ‘No’ on Tax Bill
The House and Senate will now have the opportunity to vote on a final unified plan designed to reconcile competing legislation passed by each chamber. Lawmakers at this point won’t be permitted to introduce new amendments and legislation, though they will have minor flexibility to strike certain language from the final proposal when it comes time for deliberations.
Republicans in the House and Senate – who have advanced their bill to this point without a single Democratic vote – have been pushing to finalize a plan by Dec. 22. Trump has demanded a bill by Christmas, and the pending arrival of Doug Jones of Alabama — who won Tuesday’s special election for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vacated Senate seat — will further reduce the GOP’s already narrow majority.
Republicans can afford to lose two of their own and still push a final bill through the Senate. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., initially voted against the Senate’s tax package and hasn’t given any public indication he’ll change his vote this time around. That made appeasing Rubio and Lee crucial for Republican leadership, as three nays would send the GOP’s tax overhaul crashing to the ground.
FCC Dismantles Net Neutrality
The House is generally expected to pick up the final tax package on Monday, with a possible vote coming as soon as Tuesday. The Senate is also expected to hustle through next week, though its timing remained unclear due to the health concerns of Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Thad Cochran, R-Miss. McCain, 81, is undergoing treatment for brain cancer, while Cochran, 80, is recovering from surgery to remove a lesion from his nose.
Should the final tweaks win over Rubio and Lee, there would be little standing in the way of the bill’s passage. But without anything public to this point – including a budgetary score that would determine how severely the legislation cuts into deficits in the coming years – it’s tough to say exactly how the chips will fall.