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House GOP Delays Tax Bill’s Release as Policy Details Emerge

Posted on November 1, 2017 by Dylan F. Moroses

The House GOP’s rollout of its long-awaited tax reform bill has been pushed back a day, Ways and Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady, R-Texas, confirmed October 31, even as details emerge on the bill’s content.

In a release issued late October 31, Brady announced that the planned unveiling November 1 would be moved back a day after consulting with “President Trump and our leadership team.” Despite the delay, Brady insisted that those involved are “pleased with the progress we are making and we remain on schedule to take action and approve a bill at our committee beginning next week.”

In spite of the delay, some elements of the tax plan appear to be set. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., provided some details from the tax bill during a briefing with conservative industry groups, as first reported by The Washington Post and TheWall Street Journal. Provisions expected to be in the bill include an immediate corporate tax rate reduction to 20 percent, and immediate full business expensing in a five-year temporary time frame.

The bill is expected to include four individual income tax brackets, with the top bracket remaining at 39.6 percent but starting at a higher income level, and repeal of the estate tax beginning two or three years after enactment, the reports said.

Brady said that the language in the bill would not match the version he brings to the Ways and Means Committee for markup, suggesting he would offer a chair’s amendment to update details.

Brady deflected questions related to the tax treatment of section 401(k) retirement savings accounts, the elimination of the state and local tax deduction, retroactivity, and other policy decisions. “Between now and when the bill is released, there will be a lot of speculation on different issues in different areas. Stay tuned. You’ll know the details very soon,” Brady said.

Still No State and Local Tax Compromise

A pair of House Republicans made the latest case for a compromise in the tax bill on repealing the state and local tax deduction.

A compromise proposal to keep the itemized deduction for property taxes “appears to be gaining traction,” Ways and Means member Tom Reed, R-N.Y., told reporters during a media conference call with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. Reed said property taxes are regressive and that maintaining their deductibility would go a long way toward meeting the needs of taxpayers in high-tax states.

Democrats were not convinced. The plan to preserve the itemized property tax deduction but repeal the remainder of state and local tax deductions “will still be a nightmare for the middle class,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters October 31. “There are some states like mine that have high income taxes,” he said. “There are some very Republican states like Tennessee that have high sales taxes.”

Brady said that compromising on the state and local tax deduction continues. “As the New York, New Jersey delegations and others fly in, we’re going to be visiting with them about how best we can make sure that their families get tax relief. We certainly are listening very carefully to make sure we’re delivering tax relief for those families,” he said.

Ways and Means Republicans met October 30 and 31 to continue finalizing details of the tax reform legislation, but committee members have not told reporters what policy decisions remain or what concerns they still have, repeatedly deferring questions to Brady.

Healthcare in the Tax Mix? Maybe Not

Although Brady said repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate would not be included in his committee's version of tax reform legislation despite some senators’ appetite to include the repeal as a revenue raiser, he left the door open for the upper chamber to address the issue during a radio interview on The Hugh Hewitt Show.

“The Senate has yet to pass the individual mandate [repeal]. I’m still hopeful they can find a way forward. What I don’t want to do is to add things that could again kill tax reform like healthcare died over there,” Brady said. But he added that he would support a provision to repeal the mandate during conference committee if the Senate decided to add it. He later told reporters that he does not expect healthcare tax policy to be included in the House tax reform bill.

Senate Finance Committee member John Thune, R-S.D., told reporters he doesn’t expect ACA individual mandate repeal to be included in the tax bill, but would not rule it out because some senators have shown interest in addressing the issue during tax reform discussions.

Asha Glover and David van den Berg contributed to this article.