- The Washington Times
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

President Trump and congressional Republicans reached a deal Wednesday on a $1.4 trillion tax cut and said that if they can get it signed into law by Christmas, Americans will begin to see more money in their paychecks by February.

Republicans plan to put the bill on the House and Senate floors next week, pushing for speed because of looming changes in the composition of the Senate and because they are desperate for a big win before the end of the year.


Details of the bill won’t be released until the end of this week, but the breakthrough seems to have come after Republican leaders agreed to free up cash by setting the corporate income tax rate at 21 percent, up from the 20 percent red line drawn by the White House and congressional conservatives.


SEE ALSO: Trump blesses 21 percent corporate tax rate, clears way for final tax deal


Mr. Trump blessed the 21 percent rate on Wednesday, saying it was a massive improvement over the current 35 percent rate. “If it got down to 21, I would certainly be thrilled,” he said.

That agreement freed up some money Republicans were able to use to ease the bite of other tax changes, such as eliminating state and local tax deductions. The plan would set a new top individual tax rate of 37 percent, which is down from 39.6 percent and is designed to offset the higher taxes that otherwise would have affected some wealthy blue-state residents.

In a speech at the White House, Mr. Trump surrounded himself with families he said stand to make out much better under the plan. After announcing the tax cuts they are about to get, Mr. Trump invited each family to say what the money would mean to them.

Bryant Glick of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, said the extra $600 he will get next year will go to home renovations.

“Many of your predecessors promised this reform was coming. But you did it,” Mr. Glick told the president. “I’m excited that you are the one that got it over the finish line.”

The families’ stories countered Democrats’ claims that the Republican tax plan would slam the middle class.

Mr. Trump said one family from Washington state would have their $2,500-a-year tax bill entirely wiped out and would get a $700 refund instead. Another family — a black couple who pastor a church in Richmond, Virginia — would get an additional $3,000 tax refund.

“African-American families, urban communities and families all across need this now. And it’s time for a change, and it’s time that we recognize that our president is making good on his promises,” said Leon Benjamin, the husband.

Republican leaders said they hope to vote on the package early next week, vowing to press forward before lawmakers deal with end-of-year spending issues and before their planned holiday break.

In a bit of give-and-take for blue-state Republicans, the emerging deal would allow people to apply a $10,000 deduction for state and local income taxes and property taxes.

Republicans initially envisioned erasing the entire state and local tax deduction before including a deduction of up to $10,000 for property taxes in the House- and Senate-passed bills.

The addition for income taxes is a nod to blue-state Republicans who complained that the property tax deduction alone might not be enough to save their constituents from major tax increases under the bill.

Sen. Susan M. Collins of Maine had in part conditioned her support of the bill on the restoration of the property tax deduction, along with other health care provisions leaders plan to deal with separately.

But she withheld judgment on the deal Wednesday.

“I’m going to wait and look at the entire conference report once it comes out,” she said. “There are a lot of parts still moving.”

Other Republicans also cautioned that nothing is set in stone before the final package is released at the end the week. Under fast-track budget rules, they must stay within a cost limit of $1.5 trillion, so lawmakers need to make sure the changes won’t burst through that cap.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the lone Republican senator to vote no on the tax plan earlier this month, said Wednesday that leaders still haven’t satisfied his overarching concerns about the package’s effects on the debt and deficit.

“It doesn’t matter to me whether they need or don’t need my vote,” he said. “At the end of the day, I always look — especially on defining votes like this — as if I am the deciding vote, and I’ll vote accordingly.”

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady on Wednesday convened what is expected to be the only open hearing of the House-Senate conference committee that is hammering out differences between the bills passed in the two chambers.

“All of our work has brought us to this moment, and we have more important work ahead of us to finalize the bill,” said Mr. Brady, Texas Republican. “Let’s not waver now. Let’s not give in to the Washington status quo — not when tax reform is so close.”

Democrats, meanwhile, demanded that Republicans slow down the process. They said Sen.-elect Doug Jones, who won a stunning victory in Alabama’s special election Tuesday, deserves a chance to vote on the package once he is seated next year.

They also said Mr. Jones’ victory over Republican candidate Roy Moore in deep-red Alabama shows the Republicans’ suburban base is deserting.

“To rush such a massive piece of partisan legislation when the people of Alabama have just sent us a new senator and try to jam it through before he gets here would be so wrong,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.

Under its election certification procedures, Alabama cannot make Mr. Jones’ win official until Dec. 22 and, while the state expects to issue the certification in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, it might not happen until Jan. 3. Congress is expected to be in recess by Dec. 22.

Once Mr. Jones is seated, Republicans’ slim 52-48 majority will become 51-49, leaving them no margin for error if Mr. Corker remains a no vote.

Democrats said there is a precedent to putting off the vote after a special election. They pointed to the 2010 Senate victory of Scott Brown, Massachusetts Republican. Democrats delayed their Obamacare push by two months as they sought to regroup after that race.

But Republicans say they plan to press forward.

“I’m confident we’ll pass the bill next week,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, Texas Republican.


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