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Senate Approves Sweeping Tax Reform Bill; Conference Committee Next

The Senate has passed its amended version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Bill (HR 1). Thus, the prospects for a major year-end tax reform bill reaching the President’s desk have improved significantly. The final vote of 51 to 49, cast in the early morning hours of December 2. The vote followed a daylong cliffhanger involving who would vote “yes” and who, “no.” “We have the votes,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters by mid-afternoon on December 1, although final amendments to the bill did not end until later in the evening.

One GOP Holdout

The bill, needing 51 votes under reconciliation, ultimately had only one defection, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.  “This is yet another tough vote. I am disappointed. I wanted to get to yes. But at the end of the day, I am not able to cast aside my fiscal concerns and vote for legislation that I believe, based on the information I currently have, could deepen the debt burden on future generations,” Corker said in a December 1 statement. However, Corker said he hopes to support the final bill crafted in conference committee between the House and Senate.

Conference Committee Next

HR 1, with different versions as approved by the House and Senate, will head to a conference committee next to begin ironing-out a final bill. Passage before year-end is the target for GOP leadership. Republican leaders in Congress have signaled they want to move quickly to a House-Senate conference to resolve the differences in the two bills.

The two bills have significant differences. Thus, more changes are expected– as well as new political dynamics caused by those differences. Some possible major sticking points in negotiations include the fate of the state and local income tax deduction and whether to include repeal of the ACA’s individual mandate in a final bill. The need to prevent ballooning deficits in the future if the final bill does not provide the advertised jobs creation and economic growth will also be front and center.

By George Jones, Wolters Kluwer News Staff

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