Six GOP senators send up warning flares on House tax-reform bill

I don’t want to say I told you so, but … you know. After taking a look at the House Republican version of tax reform, their counterparts in the Senate plan to basically ignore it and write their own version. Six Senate Republicans have expressed serious reservations about the direction and details of the plan, which prompts questions again about GOP preparation for another major agenda item.


And gosh, it all sounds so familiar, The Hill notes:

The House GOP tax-reform package has put Senate Republicans in a tough spot, much like the House-passed ObamaCare repeal bill did earlier this year.  …

At least a half-dozen Senate Republicans have already raised concerns about various proposals in the tax measure, setting the stage for arduous negotiations in the upper chamber.

They might just skip over all the arguments over the House proposal and go directly to writing their own version:

Senate GOP leaders have assured their colleagues that the Senate Finance Committee will write its own bill and urged them to withhold judgment on the House measure.

“They’ve told us the House bill is just a shell and we’ll have our own bill. They’ve asked to hold off on commenting and to not pick it apart,” said a Republican senator summarizing the instructions that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) gave during a Thursday lunch meeting.

That takes another page from ObamaCare, but from its passage rather than the futile efforts to repeal it earlier this year. According to Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution, “all bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives[.]” Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid got around that by hollowing out the House bill and passing a Senate version of the Affordable Care Act, which prompted an unsuccessful lawsuit from House Republicans over the origination clause. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.


So there are lots of opportunities for déjà vu in the tax reform effort, but mainly from earlier this year. Politico predicts that even writing their own bill might prove difficult for Senate Republicans, especially given the need to meet the requirements of reconciliation:

Some of the differences will be rooted in budget constraints that bar Senate Republicans from adding to the federal debt after 10 years under the filibuster-proof process they’re following, known as reconciliation. That’s likely to be a major consideration when it comes to permanently cutting the corporate tax rate to 20 percent, as the House wants to do.

Cutting the tax that deeply comes with an estimated $1.5 trillion price tag. House Ways and Means Republicans — who will start formally working on their legislation in committee on Monday — achieved that permanent reduction with offsets that include delaying their plan to eliminate the estate tax, ending a couple of family-related tax benefits and sunsetting more generous business write-offs after five years. …

Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have raised budget concerns, and there’s less GOP angst about the estate tax in the Senate than in the House. Both Collins and Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) have said it should remain.

In addition, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) want to boost the child tax credit much more than the House bill does. And Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) simply appear difficult to predict.


None of this was tough to predict. The question this prompts is why House and Senate Republicans didn’t work more closely together to produce a joint effort in the first place. We will mark the one-year anniversary of the 2016 election this week, meaning that the GOP had almost exactly a full year to prepare a comprehensive tax bill that would garner enough approval within the caucus to succeed. Instead, as I noted in my column two weeks ago, it still appears that no one has quarterbacked this properly at all.

Unless all of this déjà vu comes to a sudden end soon, get ready for another disaster.

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