Amid the rush to finish GOP tax bill, a sudden slowdown for second thoughts

The rush to finish the GOP tax overhaul has hit a snag as Republicans grapple with substantial differences between the House and Senate bills, and pause to consider unintended consequences of the most massive rewrite of the tax code in a generation.

Lawmakers are eager to pass the bill, President Trump’s top domestic priority, by Christmas. But they are also increasingly wary of political fallout from the hurried process and want to prevent embarrassing moments, such as the scribbled text hastily added to the margin of the final Senate bill.

The end of any major legislative undertaking is often a sprint. But the final stretch of the GOP tax plan is being complicated by an accelerated process like none other in recent history.

“Republicans have made a decision, which I can’t fault them for, that the longer this bill hangs out there, the more barnacles attach,” said Jonathan Traub, the former Republican staff director at the House Ways and Means Committee and now managing principal at Deloitte’s tax policy group.

As the final bill takes shape, GOP leaders must balance the votes of centrists, such as Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), whose support is contingent on healthcare votes to ease the tax bill’s repeal of the Obamacare requirement that all Americans have insurance, with deficit hawks such as Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who opposed the earlier version for adding too much to the deficit.

Though GOP leaders say the tax cuts will pay for themselves through economic growth, the Joint Committee on Taxation has concluded that both versions would add about $1 trillion to the deficit, even after accounting for expected growth.

A Treasury report Monday sought to assure lawmakers that the cost of the $1.5-trillion package would be more than paid for by future economic growth. But the one-page report was widely criticized because it relied heavily on separate and as-of-yet unannounced future initiatives for infrastructure development and welfare reform.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the report “fake math.”

Meanwhile, staffers continue going through the bill text, trying ​​​​​​​to make the needed changes to hold together the sometimes fragile GOP majority, while making sure the long-term policy proposals will be sound.

“You’d think it would easy to hand out $1.5 trillion in tax cuts,” said Traub. “It turns out to be quite difficult.”


Twitter: @LisaMascaro


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