House Republicans’ blazing, 297-page tax package of IRS reforms, tax extenders, disaster relief, retirement savings, and corrections to last year’s tax reform has received an icy reception from congressional Democrats. Although the ambitious and lengthy tax package contains several bipartisan proposals, Democrats appeared caught off guard by its release and have already begun voicing opposition.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Tex., unveiled the broad tax package late November 26. Immediately, Democrats criticized Republicans for informing them of the tax package in a public press release.
Further, Senate Finance Committee (SFC) ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has reportedly criticized Republicans’ take on “bipartisanship.” Congressional Republicans’ “strategy is to see if they can lure a few Democrats into coming over. “That didn’t work before and it’s not going to work now,” Wyden told reporters.
However, Brady reiterated on November 28 that the tax package is a bipartisan effort. “These policy proposals have the support of Republicans and Democrats in both chambers,” Brady told the House Rules Committee just before its consideration of the Retirement, Savings, and Other Tax Relief Bill of 2018. The nearly 300-page tax and IRS reform package consists of various tax-related measures, several of which were previously approved in the House with bipartisan support.
Additionally, the package includes five technical corrections to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) (P.L. 115-97), which served as last year’s GOP overhaul of the tax code. Although the TCJA also contained some bipartisan measures, not one Democrat voted for the legislation. Likewise, it is thought on Capitol Hill that the latest GOP tax package will be met with Democratic resistance because of its inclusion of TCJA corrections.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a November 28 cost estimate of the package, predicting an increase to the federal deficit of $54.7 billion. Accordingly, House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Richard Neal, D-Mass., who is expected to chair the House’s tax writing committee next year when Democrats reclaim the majority, has denounced the tax package. Neal told the House Rules Committee on November 28 that the package is indicative of “fiscal malpractice.”
Although the package is expected to clear the House as early as November 29, its chances of success “as is” in the Senate appear bleak. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who is expected to chair the SFC next year, has reportedly predicted a tough road ahead for the package in its entirety. Namely, the IRS reform and tax extenders provisions of the package likely carry the best odds, according to Grassley. However, the TCJA technical corrections and retirement savings provisions could prove the most difficult.
Currently, the package needs to garner the support of at least nine Democrats in the Senate under regular order to reach the chamber’s 60-vote threshold. However, Grassley has floated the idea that attaching the package, at least in part, to a year-end government spending bill could provide for a better path toward success. Congress is currently at work on the spending bill, which must be approved before funding for federal agencies, including the IRS, expires at midnight on December 7.
By Jessica Jeane, Senior News Editor