House Republicans Prepare Tax Reform Push

Kevin Brady
Can Republicans deliver on tax reform before their Thanksgiving deadline? Don't hold your breath.

The House Republicans are planning to unveil their long-awaited tax overhaul legislation to the general public this week, which would set the wheels in motion to get it through the chamber in the forthcoming weeks.

The House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Kevin Brady, is slated to release its tax bill this Wednesday. A committee markup – where amendments are offered – is also expected by next Monday. The GOP leaders have set an ambitious timeline of passing this legislation on to the Senate by the Thanksgiving this year, so that it could be enacted by the end of the year 2017.

This ambitious plan represents that first major GOP tax overhaul since 1986, but it it not without challenges. the GOP in the Senate is divided, and the congressmen are working at a breakneck pace to complete the legislation in record time in order to get their tax reform through via the arcane budget reconciliation process.

House Republicans also narrowly agreed to the budget with just two votes to spare. More than half of the 20 GOP defectors hailed from the populous, high-tax states like New York and New Jersey that could stand to lose from the proposed elimination of the state and local tax deduction (SALT).

Many of these lawmakers are among the top Democratic targets in year 2018 and don’t want to risk their positions by raising taxes on their constituents right before running the reelections next year. Their defections on the budget served as a warning to the GOP leaders that tax reform faces serious challenges.

On Saturday, the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady said that he is planning to include a deduction for the local property taxes in the upcoming legislations.

“At the urging of lawmakers, we are restoring an itemized property tax deduction to help taxpayers with local tax burdens,” Brady had said in a statement.

His announcement comes as the GOP leaders are trying to balance the demands of the conservatives who wanted tax reforms to be paid for. Under the budget that is now agreed to by the House and Senate, the GOP tax plan can add up to a $1.5 trillion deficit. The eight conservative lawmakers voted against this budget last week out of concerns about the deficit spending. Many more were willing to vote for the budget simply to get the tax reform moving in any direction, but GOP leaders can hardly count on them to automatically vote for the final tax reform bill also.

Speaker Paul Ryan also warned that “we’re about to go through Class V rapids” once special-interest lobbyists start rushing to protect their prized tax breaks. “When the details come, that is when you’re going to see K Street coming to Congress. And that’s why this hasn’t been done for 31 years,” Ryan said.

Across the Capitol, Sen. John Cornyn also told reporters that he had expected the Senate to be about a week behind the House’s timeline, but leadership is pushing hard to get a bill passed in November.

“We need to get the tax bill out of the Senate before Thanksgiving,” he said late last week.