House, Senate set up conflicting tax-reform plans
WASHINGTON: House Republicans advanced their tax overhaul yesterday but the US Senate unveiled a competing version with key differences, signalling a potential clash within President Donald Trump’s party.
Republicans in congress have seized on the need to reform and simplify the nation’s cumbersome tax code with legislation that slashes taxes for corporations and American families.
Mr Trump, desperate for a major congressional achievement in his first year in office following the collapse of his health care reform effort, is pushing an ambitious timeline: a tax bill on his desk by year’s end.
The House plan is on track for a floor vote next week, senior Republican Kevin McCarthy said, after the measure passed the Ways and Means Committee by 24 to 16 votes along party lines.
The White House hailed the advancement as “an important step,” and expressed confidence that “with continued co-operation with congress, we will achieve these priorities this year”.
Mr Trump’s office also applauded the Senate for releasing its version, even as the new legislation shows the Republicans in the two chambers are at odds.
Although the House bill permanently cuts the corporate tax rate from 35 per cent to 20 per cent, effective next year, the Senate version would delay that cut until the following year. Delaying that reduction would lower the cost of the bill to the Treasury, but the delay is opposed by the White House and some Senate Republicans. “The president would like this to go into effect right away,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox Business Network.
The House version also maintains the nation’s top tax bracket for the wealthiest individuals at 39.6 per cent, while the Senate bill lowers the top tier to 38.5 per cent.
Senate rules allow for the measure to add $1.5 trillion (almost $2 trillion) to the deficit across 10 years. But with the cuts expected to cost far more, legislators have scrambled to find other ways to boost revenue and cut spending to cover the costs.
Republicans insist dramatically lowering corporate tax rates would send the US economy soaring, and offering a repatriation tax holiday would bring a tidal wave of internationally held money flooding back into the country.
With internal tensions simmering over what should be included in the largest tax overhaul since Ronald Reagan’s 1980s presidency, House Speaker Paul Ryan insisted the details would be “ironed out” between the two competing plans. “It takes time. But trust me, we are going to get this over the finish line,” he said.
Republicans will likely have to go it alone, as Democrats in both chambers have united in opposition.
Democrats have pointed to a preliminary study by the Tax Policy Centre that said that under the House bill, at least 7 per cent of taxpayers would pay higher taxes in 2018.
Paul Ryan with Republican whip Steve Scalise, who was shot at congressional baseball practice in June