GOP Not Yet United on Tax Reform Bill

As top congressional Republicans and the White House prepare to release a tax reform framework during the week of September 25, intraparty consensus on a final tax plan remains elusive for GOP members (TAXDAY, 2017/09/14, C.1). Senate Finance Committee (SFC) Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, said on September 15 that the so-called Big Six is “trying to get on the same page.”

Hatch’s comment comes the day after the SFC held a hearing on individual tax reform, where Hatch stated the committee is not anyone’s “rubber stamp” (TAXDAY, 2017/09/15, C.1). Hatch also clarified that the impending framework release will merely serve as guidance to the committee, and that no one in the Big Six will dictate how the SFC will craft a tax reform bill.

According to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Tex., the tax reform framework to be released will provide more information on the proposed treatment of corporate interest deductions. The plan will likely grandfather existing debt and provide exemptions to small businesses and agriculture, Brady said at an event on September 14, according to several reports. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reportedly said at the same event that the framework will issue more details on proposed business tax rates.

The “Senate Finance Committee will do this bill the way it wants to do it, and I think the Ways and Means Committee in the House will do the bill the way they want to. And then we’ll get together…and reconcile the differences,” Hatch said on September 15.

As for President Trump’s consistently stated goal of wanting to lower the business tax rate to 15 percent, Hatch said the tax committees will try to work toward that goal but that he does not expect to meet it entirely. “I sincerely doubt we’ll be able to get to that level on the corporate tax rates,” he said.

Hatch remains optimistic about the prospects of completing bipartisan tax reform this year. He added that although he believes Congress can pass tax reform in 2017, “it’s going to take a lot of cooperation of both Democrats and Republicans.”

Forty-five of 48 Senate Democrats have maintained that certain “prerequisites” must be met if Republicans want bipartisan tax reform, including that the top 1 percent of taxpayers receive no tax cuts (TAXDAY, 2017/08/02, C.1). According to SFC ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Democrats are not calling for every change implemented in tax reform to be progressive. “Rather, that the end result of all tax reform is at least as progressive as current law,” Wyden said in a September 14 tweet.

By Jessica Jeane, Wolters Kluwer News Staff

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