Politics

Republicans Optimistic Tax Reform Will Pass Next Week

REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter

Top GOP lawmakers are confident the conferenced tax reform bill will pass both chambers early next week, allowing them to send the legislation to the president’s desk just ahead of Christmas.

House and Senate tax negotiators signed the conference report — which can’t be amended on the floor with the exception of provisions that don’t comply with the Byrd rule — Friday afternoon.

“I’m confident at the end of the day, the Senate will approve this conference committee report because no one should be defending this status quo and this horrible tax code Americans have had to live with for too long,” House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady told reporters Friday.

GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennesee — who voted against the Senate-passed version of the bill — and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, both of whom expressed hesitations about the legislation, said they plan to vote in favor of the measure after being briefed on the final $1.5 trillion tax package.

Last-minute tweaks were made to the bill to meet Rubio’s demands to increase the refundability of the child tax credit, with negotiators agreeing to increase the credit from $1,100 to $1,400 per child.

Corker and Rubio’s acceptance of the bill signals Republicans will likely accomplish their first major legislative win of the 115th Congress as the measure is expected to overwhelmingly pass the House along party lines.

While the bill has garnered support from key lawmakers in the upper chamber, a number of members expressed concern health issues could prevent Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Thad Cochran of Mississippi from voting. Spokesmen from both offices said they expect the lawmakers to be present next week.

“All of our thoughts and prayers go out to Senator McCain — you know, he’s having a tough time — but I’m told that he will be here next week at voting,” Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio told reporters. “And more importantly, you know, we all wish him the best of health.”

Vice President Mike Pence postponed his trip to Isreal as a precaution in the case he needs to be present to break a tie in the Senate.

The final bill reduces the individual rates and reduces the corporate rate to 21 percent in 2018 and repeals the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate effective in 2019

Democrats have widely blasted the measure for the way it was constructed, alleging it benefits high-income earners over the middle class and corporations over Main Street.

“The country has been watching and protesting with anger as Republicans are now days away from passing their back door deal that digs into the pockets of the middle class to pay for massive tax breaks for multinational corporations,” Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement. “This is a historically unpopular bill that hikes taxes on the middle class, leaves 13 million Americans uninsured and raises premiums for millions more.”

Republicans have dismissed the criticisms, telling reporters they are confident Americans will benefit from changes across the board.

The House is expected to vote on the measure Tuesday followed by the Senate Tuesday and Wednesday after 10 hours of debate.

“Democrats are misrepresenting the bill — ultimately the American people are going to decide this when they look at their paychecks and see what’s happening with their withholding and see a lot more money,” Portman said.

Its passage is critical for Republicans ahead of the 2018 election cycle after GOP lawmakers fumbled their attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare earlier this year.

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