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Senate GOP Returns to Drawing Board on Trigger Proposal

Posted on December 2, 2017 by Asha Glover

A trigger mechanism in the GOP’s tax reform plan that would raise taxes if the bill doesn’t produce the expected economic growth may violate Senate rules, a prospect that caused Republicans to scramble for potential fixes November 30.

Senate Finance Committee member John Thune, R-S.D., told reporters that most lawmakers aren’t convinced that the trigger would withstand a challenge by the Senate parliamentarian. The mechanism, which was being added to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to win support from Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., would raise taxes by as much as $350 billion if the economy doesn’t grow by more than 0.4 percent annually above a baseline established by the Congressional Budget Office, according to The Washington Post.

“The question now is: how do you design the revenue raisers that Corker wants in year 7?” Thune said, adding, “I think they’re still working on the trigger, hoping it can withstand that [challenge].”

“I think we’re looking at all the different potential configurations of revenue options that might be available to get that number to where [Corker] wants it,” Thune said. “As soon as we have that together and we have the wraparound [in] the design, then I think we’ll be able to move forward and start voting on amendments.”

“It’s kind of a little bit of a moving target,” Thune said on the potential timing of amendment votes. Senate leaders later suspended votes until December 1.

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., told reporters it remains doubtful that the trigger proposal would be included in a final tax bill. Rounds said that while he doesn’t support the proposal, he would accept its inclusion in the final version of the bill if it assuaged other Republicans’ concerns.

Collins Introduces SALT Amendment

Republicans have started to offer amendments to the tax reform bill, although it is unclear which amendments will be brought up and voted on while the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is considered on the Senate floor. Sen. Susan M. Collins, R-Maine, said she has introduced four amendments to the bill, including one that would allow taxpayers to deduct up to $10,000 in state and local property taxes.

The Senate bill currently suspends all state and local tax deductions, while the House tax reform bill (H.R. 1) keeps a $10,000 deduction for state property taxes.

The provision will likely be opposed by House lawmakers from high-tax states who have said that the current proposal does not do enough for their constituents. Rep. Lee M. Zeldin, R-N.Y., has also said that it is up to House lawmakers to negotiate since there are no Republican senators from California, New Jersey, or New York.

Collins said she also introduced an amendment that would make the child and dependent tax credit refundable, and another that would restore a medical expense deduction for expenses in excess of 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income for all taxpayers for 2017 and 2018.

Collins said she worked with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the White House on drafting her amendments, but was uncertain whether McConnell was urging other senators to support them. “They’re not enamored with some of my pay-fors, but they seem to be very receptive, for example, to the property tax amendment,” Collins told reporters.

“I’m going to see what happens with the bill overall,” Collins said when asked if she requires all of her amendments to pass in order to support the bill. “Some are higher priorities for me than others, but also keep in mind that I remain very concerned about offsetting the premium increases that will occur as a result of the repeal of the individual mandate. I still believe it was a mistake to include that in this bill,” but she added that it makes it more essential for the Senate to pass legislation to address Affordable Care Act issues.

Senate Finance Committee member Tim Scott, R-S.C., said he also planned on offering amendments, with at least one focusing on insurance.

Dylan F. Moroses contributed to this article.

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