Why the House Tax Bill Looks on Track for Passage

Republicans have mostly avoided the mistakes and dividing lines that complicated their Obamacare-repeal efforts.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, followed at right by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, walks past boxes of petitions supporting the Republican tax-reform bill that is set for a vote later this week, as he arrives for a news conference on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Daniel Newhauser
Add to Briefcase
Daniel Newhauser
Nov. 14, 2017, 8 p.m.

House Republicans are poised to pass their tax-reform package on Thursday, hoping to overcome a shaky start to President Trump’s first year in office by handing him his first major piece of legislation.

Unlike in the tempestuous health care debate, House Republicans are on solid footing heading into the vote. Several Republicans, particularly moderate and vulnerable members, remain unsold on the bill. But for the most part, conservatives are united behind it, meaning leadership can afford to lose a few of their more moderate members.

An electoral drubbing in multiple states last week and lack of signature legislation this Congress are all spurring Republicans to move quickly to pass this bill. But it is also the process and the nature of the issue itself putting wind at the GOP’s back.

“We’re more unified than we were on the health care bill, because with health care we had a lot of different factions in the conference pulling people in different directions,” Majority Whip Steve Scalise said. “Now, we’re all together on the rollout. The president was all in on Day One, and that’s been incredibly helpful.”

Republicans broadly agree that the federal government should cut taxes. That makes this issue much different than health care reform, because many in the party ideologically oppose a federal presence in the health care market. Passing a health care bill was inherently challenging because no amount of changes to Obamacare were enough for some members.

“It’s in the Republican platform to cut taxes,” said Rep. Dave Brat, a House Freedom Caucus member who said he will support the tax bill. “To run a health care plan at a federal level is not in the Republican platform. To repeal it is. So that’s a fundamental policy difference.”

Many Republicans, Trump included, griped after the failure of their health bill that they shouldn’t have taken up that measure first. But in a sense, the failure is also helping them pass this tax bill; Republicans simply do not think voters will abide another legislative failure.

After Democrats dominated in last week’s elections—particularly in Virginia and New Jersey—many Republicans are looking for a win more than ever before. Cutting taxes has become the outlet for that frustration.

Rep. Tom Reed of New York said that feeling has in part helped pull his support toward the bill, even though he had been trying to work on a bipartisan tax measure and even though the bill digs deeper into state and local taxes than he would have liked.

“What I really see is we have to deliver. Tax reform is critical,” Reed said. “That’s the lesson I took away from [the election]. I didn’t see in those numbers a Democratic wave. I saw Democratic energy and turnout, and I saw [GOP] base suppression in regards to, I think, some folks saying, ‘What are you doing? You’re not delivering anything.’”

House members also credit leadership with establishing a collaborative process. The principles of tax reform have been discussed exhaustively over the year, even if the hearings have been few and light on witnesses. Leaders bent to concerns from members about a border-adjustment tax and gave ground on completely eliminating the state and local deduction by preserving it for property taxes up to $10,000 per year.

“It’s some of the best unity I’ve seen in the conference. There’s an understanding of where we’ve got to go and even some disagreements we know that we’ve got to go to conference [to work out],” said Rep. Doug Collins, a member of House leadership.

Still, it is clear some see another lesson in the vote totals. Members vulnerable to being unseated are wary of taking away many popular tax breaks, even if leaders are trying to convince them that voters will receive a net tax break.

“They’ve convinced a lot of people to vote for it only to move the process, but I’ve been down that road before and this bill’s not going to get acceptable in the Senate. So I’m not going to vote for a bill and have it come back and be substantially similar and be told, ‘Well, you voted for it once,’” said Rep. Darrell Issa of California, who is concerned about scaling back the state and local tax deduction.

Other members, however, are looking to the Senate with excitement, especially after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Tuesday afternoon that his chamber’s bill would repeal Obamacare’s mandate that individuals buy health coverage, as Trump has repeatedly requested.

The House Freedom Caucus, in particular, has been strident in pushing for the tax bill to take a shot at Obamacare because some have worried that the bill cuts too much on the corporate side and not enough for middle-income individuals. They want to take the savings from repealing the mandate and use them to further lower taxes.

“Yes, we want growth, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that in getting the growth we have to actually make sure that hardworking families are benefiting, not just corporations,” said Rep. Warren Davidson. “One of the biggest pay-fors that’s not been on the table is the link to health care.”

With so many members in favor of the bill, it remains a possibility that leaders could allow some of their vulnerable members off the hook and release them to vote against it, leadership aides said.

What We're Following See More »
EXPECTED TO SAY U.S. IS WITHDRAWING FROM TREATY
Bolton Lands in Russia for Talks
15 minutes ago
THE LATEST
SHE IS HAVING MEMORY ISSUES
Sandra O'Connor Stepping Back From Public Life
23 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court has stepped back from public life. ...She last made public appearances over two years ago. This summer she turned over an office she had kept at the Supreme Court to the court’s most recently retired justice, Anthony Kennedy. Her son Jay O’Connor said in a telephone interview that his mother began to have challenges with her short-term memory. That made some public events more difficult. He says she now stays close to her Phoenix home."

SEX WOULD BE CONSIDERED BINARY
HHS Could Nix Title IX Protections for Transgender Students
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times. The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined 'on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.' The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with."

Source:
SAYS HIS DEATH STEMMED FROM A FISTFIGHT
Saudis Admit Khashoggi Killed in Embassy
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Saudi Arabia said Saturday that Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident Saudi journalist who disappeared more than two weeks ago, had died after an argument and fistfight with unidentified men inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Eighteen men have been arrested and are being investigated in the case, Saudi state-run media reported without identifying any of them. State media also reported that Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy director of Saudi intelligence, and other high-ranking intelligence officials had been dismissed."

Source:
ROGER STONE IN THE CROSSHAIRS?
Mueller Looking into Ties Between WikiLeaks, Conservative Groups
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is scrutinizing how a collection of activists and pundits intersected with WikiLeaks, the website that U.S. officials say was the primary conduit for publishing materials stolen by Russia, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Mueller’s team has recently questioned witnesses about the activities of longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone, including his contacts with WikiLeaks, and has obtained telephone records, according to the people familiar with the matter."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login