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Corker Laments Missed Opportunities in Budget Debate

Posted on October 5, 2017 by David van den Berg

A senior Republican on the Senate Budget Committee lamented the lack of substance in the panel’s discussions on U.S. fiscal policy October 4, criticizing his party’s tax reform proposal during a markup of the fiscal 2018 budget.

“It does feel like to me, up here . . . that serious issues, serious discussions about fiscal issues are not going to take place,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who won’t seek reelection in 2018. “The fact is, all that’s being talked about right now is rates.”

Corker expressed dismay that entitlement reform won’t be addressed in the budget resolution the committee intends to pass October 5. He said that hard choices remain on the Republican unified tax reform framework, noting that lawmakers must close $4 trillion in loopholes in order to do it properly.

Corker said he will vote for the budget in committee to help fellow Republicans deal with parliamentary challenges in the Senate. However, the only way to get his floor vote will be by making tax reform permanent, pro-growth, and deficit-reducing, Corker said.

Senate Budget Committee Chair Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., however, called the budget resolution a “serious fiscal plan” that tees up the necessary tax reform to make U.S. corporations globally competitive. 

“Our current tax system actually benefits foreign-based companies, while harming U.S.-headquartered companies and employers,” he said. “And we continually ask why jobs are leaving this country. A big reason is [the] hostile tax landscape.”

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, who serves on both the Senate Budget Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, likewise defended the budget resolution. He said the tax reform framework proposed by Trump administration officials and congressional Republicans shares features with earlier proposals. 

Crapo cited a tax plan put forward by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which called for eliminating most tax expenditures to lower rates. He also referenced the 2011 Bipartisan Tax Fairness and Simplification Act, which would have repealed various deductions and credits, changed rates, and repealed the alternative minimum tax.   

“All of them collapse the individual rates to just three rates in the individual code,” Crapo said.

All three plans also eliminate the alternative minimum tax and “utilize the standard deduction,” he said. They all also protect the child tax credit and lower the corporate rate, he said.

“The structure that we are talking about here is a very common structure that has been bipartisan in the past,” Crapo added. “It ought to be bipartisan now.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., corrected Crapo’s remarks during the markup, noting that the 2011 bill tripled the standard deduction but didn’t take away personal exemptions, as the newest Republican plan does. Wyden also blasted the Republican framework, including its repeal of the estate tax and inclusion of a lower rate for passthrough businesses. That, Wyden said, “opens up a loophole for the mega-wealthy that is the size of the Grand Canyon.” 

House Budget Work 

The House began floor debate on the fiscal 2018 budget resolution October 4 and lawmakers are expected to vote October 5. The measure, which passed the House Budget Committee in July, includes reconciliation instructions, while calling for deficit-neutral tax reform and more than $200 billion in spending cuts. 

While Republicans emphasized that the bill would clear the path for tax reform legislation, Democrats oppose the legislation. House Budget ranking minority member John A. Yarmuth, D-Ky., accused Republicans of using budget reconciliation to “ram through giant tax giveaways to the wealthy and big corporations — and to do it without bipartisan support,” during a speech on the House floor. 

“The tax cuts in this plan will increase deficits and debt by approximately $2.4 trillion dollars in the first 10 years alone, and trillions more in the years after,” Yarmuth said, adding that Republicans’ proposed tax plan also will fail to boost economic growth, as they promised, and will result in calls for “drastic cuts to important programs that the American people need and support.”

Asha Glover contributed to this article.

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