The hard part on tax cuts is yet to come

  • 4 December 2017
  • NormanL
The hard part on tax cuts is yet to come

The House and Senate have passed their versions of tax cuts, which means the bills must be reconciled in a conference committee. How do the bills differ? Our friends at the Tax Foundation have an analysis of the key issues negotiators must agree on before sending a final bill to the President. Among the differences are the number of tax brackets for individual filers, the size of the standard deduction, the status of the alternative minimum tax, and much more. As the Tax Foundation notes, finding a compromise will be tricky:

Unless the House simply accedes to the language that passed the Senate, a conference committee must produce a report which addresses all these differences. The conference report must then be approved by both chambers. Such reports are privileged, meaning that the motion to proceed to consideration of the report is not debatable, and that the report must be considered as-is, without amendments. In the case of reconciliation bills, moreover, there is no filibuster, and debate is limited to ten hours. These rules are all very important to the prospects of a bill that passed the Senate with such a narrow margin. But as that margin shows, there may be scant room to negotiate.

Earlier this morning, McConnell referred to the rounds of negotiations necessary to secure 51 votes as a “Rubik’s cube” of coalition-building. Since Senate leadership can afford to lose one vote at most—and perhaps none should Doug Jones, a Democrat, win the December 12th special election in Alabama and thus turn over that seat before the conference report is voted upon—just about any change could be precarious.

McConnell’s belief that these challenges can be surmounted seems reasonable in light of those both chambers have already overcome, but as with all of the negotiations to date, solving this last Rubik’s Cube will prove a delicate operation.

The Alabama Senate race between Roy Moore and Doug Jones could loom very large in how this bill fares in the Senate, once the negotiators have had their say. Republicans have little margin for error in the Senate, and even in the House, they have to contend with members who dislike this, that, or the other provision.

Calling it all a "Rubik's cube" is being rather optimistic. It's more like walking blindfolded through a mine field.