Republicans' Tax Plan Just Took A Big Step Toward Becoming Reality — But It's Not Over Yet
The GOP's sweeping tax legislation is on track to advance to President Trump's desk by Christmas. House and Senate Republicans announced a tax bill deal in principle on Wednesday that could go to a a final vote as early as next week. Two GOP aides told CNN that Republicans struck a deal in theory that will combine the current House and Senate tax bills, with several wrinkles that lawmakers in both chambers are set to iron out over the next week.
Senate Republicans voted to pass the massive tax reform legislation nearly two weeks ago. in the dead of night. Their version of the bill differs from House Republicans' tax bill, which also passed the chamber. The tax bill's passage in the Senate meant that that version had to be reconciled with the House's tax bill, and Wednesday's announcement is a step forward towards its passage in Congress.
The GOP did not immediately reveal many details about the tentative agreement on Wednesday. The majority whip, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, told The New York Times that Republican lawmakers will be briefed on the deal later in the day, adding that he was confident of the bill's approval by next week. President Trump has publicly expressed his desire to sign a tax bill — which would be his first major legislative win this year — into law by Christmas.
On Tuesday, Republicans revealed they were coming close to locking down several details in the bill, including cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent and reducing the top income tax rate for individuals from 39.6 percent to 37 percent. According to early reports, the deal on Wednesday agrees on both those rates.
The GOP's effort to overhaul the U.S. tax system has been widely criticized by Democrats and the public; many have dubbed it a "tax scam." Outrage ensued after Senate Republicans voted to pass the 479-page legislation at around 2 a.m. on Dec. 2 without first allowing their Democratic counterparts time to read the bill. As hours ticked toward a vote, several Democratic senators furiously tweeted out photos of hand-scribbled amendments on parts of the bill as evidence of Republicans' desperate effort to ram the consequential legislation through the Senate.
Democrats are also demanding that Republicans halt any movement on the tax bill until newly-elected Alabama senator Doug Jones gets sworn in. Jones trumped his scandal-ridden Republican opponent Roy Moore in a special election on Tuesday to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions' empty seat, and will shrink Republicans' Senate majority to 51-49 when he is sworn in. In endorsing Moore — who has repeatedly denied accusations of preying on teenage girls in the '80s — Trump and his aides argued a Moore win was crucial to push the Republican agenda, which included tax cuts, forward.
CNN reported on Wednesday that the Republicans' final tax bill would likely repeal Obamacare's individual mandate, one of the most contentious details in the tax legislation. Critics say it essentially turns the tax bill into a health care repeal bill — the GOP's failed skinny repeal aimed to do exactly this — and would devastate the health care law.
Despite the widespread backlash, Republicans show no sign of slowing down their effort to pass what New York Times columnist Paul Krugman called "The Biggest Tax Scam In History." The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Senate tax bill would increase the federal deficit by $1.4 trillion, a huge hike that would likely result in cuts to Medicare funding, among other crucial social programs. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill have offered massive tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy, with modest cuts to middle-income earners that would peter out after several years.
It's unclear which details Republicans in the House and Senate agreed on, and which would require more negotiations in the next week. According to the Times, President Trump will make a "closing argument" for the tax reform bill on Wednesday.