GOP tax writer promises swift movement on tax bill

GOP tax writer promises swift movement on tax bill
© Greg Nash

A top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee said Wednesday lawmakers will move quickly on a tax-reform bill once Congress adopts a budget resolution.

"The committee will move with dispatch at that point," Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) said at an event hosted by The Hill.

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“I think you can move right to a markup” of that bill, he said, adding that “everybody knows these basic concepts.”

Roskam is the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee's tax-policy subcommittee.

The House passed its budget resolution last week, with the Senate is expected to take up its own version next week. After that, the two chambers will need to come to an agreement to merge their blueprints. The Senate version allows for $1.5 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years.

Republicans are under intense pressure to deliver a victory on taxes after their failure to repeal ObamaCare. Roskam said that the difference between the health care debate and tax reform is that no one is defending the current tax code.

Still, the Republican tax plan has already faced pushback from GOP lawmakers in high-tax states such as New York and California who fear the plan would eliminate the state and local tax deduction. 

Roskam, whose Chicago-area district includes many residents that claim the deduction, said that "there's a sensitivity" on the issue and that Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyGOP eyes limits on investor tax break Overnight Finance: White House requests B for disaster relief | Ex-Equifax chief grilled over stock sales | House panel approves B for border wall | Tax plan puts swing-state Republicans in tough spot Swing-seat Republicans squirm over GOP tax plan MORE (R-Texas) is trying to figure out "where there is a soft landing."

Another issue that Republicans are wrestling with is the extent to which a bill will make permanent changes to the tax code. If Republicans want to pass a tax bill through reconciliation in order to prevent a Democratic filibuster, the measure can't add to the deficit after 10 years, meaning that some changes might need to expire.

Roskam said that lawmakers are "not going to do as well as we hoped in terms of permanence,” but said they will try to make as much of the bill permanent as possible.

White House Council of Economic Advisors Chairman Kevin Hassett said at the event, which was sponsored by the RATE (Reforming America's Taxes Equitably) Coalition, that the "case is overwhelming" that a tax bill would grow the economy.

Hassett said he hopes “we can have a nice permanent tax bill because we will have stronger economic effects.”

He estimated that a tax cut like the one Republicans are proposing would increase the median wage by about $4,000 in a short period of time.

Hassett and Roskam also both expressed hope that a tax bill would get some support from Democrats.

Roskam said he hopes to create a package with Democratic suggestions that “essentially is an offer they can’t refuse when it comes down to it.”

But Rep. Richard Neal (Mass.), the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, said there aren't many tax details from Republicans yet. He expressed concerns that it seems that the GOP intends to “concentrate tax relief at the top.”

He said that Democrats are "open to the conversation and discussion" on making businesses more competitive but have a problem if the top individual tax rate is cut.

Neal said he wants hearings on a tax bill before a markup, adding that he doesn't think a markup “should be done in the middle of the night.”

He said that he is planning to release tax-reform principles once Republicans further lay out their plan. He said that Democrats want tax reform to be revenue neutral, focus on the middle class, and include investments in human capital.

House Republicans held a retreat on tax reform in late September that Roskam said was constructive rather than acrimonious. He said that lawmakers long to "restore confidence in institutions."

“Members of Congress are ready to go home and hear people say, good job,” he said.

- This story was updated at 1:49 p.m.