Senate to Begin Floor Debate on Tax Reform Bill

The Senate voted 52 to 48 on November 29 to begin floor debate on the Republican tax reform bill. The motion to proceed allows for 20 hours of debate on the Senate GOP tax bill. After debate, a “vote-a-rama” will begin allowing for potentially hundreds of amendments to be filed and voted on.

“I encourage any member who thinks that we need to fix the problems of our outdated tax code to vote to proceed to the legislation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor before the November 29 vote. “I urge them to vote for the motion to proceed and offer their amendments.”

Begin Floor Debate

The procedural vote to begin floor debate on the tax bill was expected earlier in the day. However, it was delayed until after 5 p.m. because of various challenges reportedly faced by GOP leadership on the bill. Reportedly among the items to be discussed, an enhanced child tax credit and a higher corporate tax rate. Currently, the bill contains a 20 percent corporate tax rate. However, a 22 percent rate may be proposed to offset costs.

Changes Likely

As GOP leadership and the Trump administration continue to work toward gathering enough support to pass the bill, changes to the measure are likely. A manager’s amendment to the bill is expected to surface on November 30. This amendment will supposedly address the concerns of certain Republican senators who have yet to commit to the bill

The most outspoken GOP holdout, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., expressed optimism in a November 29 tweet about getting to a yes-vote. “We still have work to do, but I have been working with the administration and Senate leadership to make progress toward a better bill,” Johnson said. Changes to the bill to address Johnson’s concerns could include an increased income tax deduction for passthrough entities to 20 percent, up from the currently proposed 17.4 percent, according to several reports.

Opposition

Meanwhile, Democratic senators criticized the GOP tax bill as well as the process as a whole, which they state has been “rushed.” Senate Finance Committee (SFC) ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., spoke on the Senate floor late in the evening on November 29 criticizing the process and the bill for benefiting only the wealthy and corporations. “There was not one single hearing on this bill,” Wyden said. “I just want to set the record straight at the outset of debate.” While Republicans have argued that over 70 hearings took place on various policy ideas within the bill, Democrats counter that not one hearing was held on the bill and its provisions specifically.

Timing

At press time, senators were continuing to engage in debate on the bill. A final vote on the Senate bill is expected by December 1. If the Senate’s measure is approved, the Senate and House will convene a committee conference to reconcile the differences between the two bills.

By Jessica Jeane, Wolters Kluwer News Staff

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