Senate Leaders Talk Tax Reform; Health Care Not Over, McConnell Says

Senate Republicans are planning to move tax reform legislation through the budget reconciliation process this fall, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters on August 1. Only 50 Senate Republican votes, as opposed to 60, are needed under reconciliation, with Vice President Pence serving as the tie-breaking vote.

McConnell’s announcement comes after receiving an August 1 letter from Senate Democrats outlining their prerequisites for bipartisan tax reform (TAXDAY, 2017/08/02, C.1). “We will need to use reconciliation because we have been informed by the majority of Democrats in a letter I just received today that most of the principles that would get the country growing again they’re not interested in addressing,” McConnell said.

McConnell added that he did not want to give up on the prospect of having Democratic support behind tax reform legislation, noting that reconciliation does not preclude Democrats from voting yes. “The goal is to finish it this year,” he added.

Congress intends to take up tax reform when lawmakers return to Washington after Labor Day, according to McConnell. Under the Constitution, the process will start in the House, he noted.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., spoke to reporters shortly after McConnell’s press briefing and challenged McConnell to specify what principle of the three Democrats outlined would require Republicans to undergo tax reform through reconciliation. “The best tax reform is bipartisan tax reform aimed at helping middle class, not the top 1 percent,” Schumer said. “We saw the trouble of going at it alone with health care…,” he added.

Health Care

The Senate is continuing to score health care proposals from Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Ted Cruz, R-Tex., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., McConnell also told reporters on August 1. “The reconciliation vehicle for health care is not yet expired,” he said.

Senate Republicans’ last effort to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) during the week of July 24 failed because of a lack of intraparty consensus among Republicans (TAXDAY, 2017/07/31, C.1). “Our problem on health care was not the Democrats; we didn’t have 50 Republican votes,” McConnell said.

White House

Meanwhile, President Trump on August 1 hosted an event at the White House with small businesses from across the country. The purpose of the event was to spur a discussion on tax reform. “We are pursuing bold tax cuts so that our companies can thrive, compete and grow,” Trump said at the event.

By Jessica Jeane, Wolters Kluwer News Staff

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