Lawmakers, conservative groups don't want 'trigger' in tax bill

Lawmakers, conservative groups don't want 'trigger' in tax bill
© Greg Nash

Some GOP senators and outside conservative groups are raising concerns about the potential inclusion of a "trigger" in the Senate tax bill if the measure fails to meet economic growth projections.

GOP deficit hawks in the Senate have been pushing for a backstop that would scale back tax cuts if they add more to the deficit than Republicans expect. Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSenate campaign fundraising reports roll in Congress should take the lead on reworking a successful Iran deal North Korea tensions ease ahead of Winter Olympics MORE (R-Tenn.) said Tuesday that he has reached an agreement with leadership to include a trigger in the bill, though he did not provide any details about the provision.

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But others are wary of automatic tax increases.

"Right now, my feeling about it is that I'd rather drink weed killer than vote for the thing," Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) told reporters, though he added that he's willing to keep an open mind.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Fix what we’ve got and make Medicare right this year Despite amnesty, DACA bill favors American wage-earners MORE (R-Ky.) also said he'd prefer a trigger not be included.

"I'm not very excited about having any automatic raises in taxes," he said. "I think if your economy is slowing down, that's a terrible time to raise taxes."

But Paul, who came out in support of the current version of the bill on Monday, added that the inclusion of a backstop probably wouldn't ultimately cost him his vote on the overall measure.

Both Paul and Kennedy expressed some interest in an idea floated by Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWith religious liberty memo, Trump made America free to be faithful again Interstate compacts aren't the right way to fix occupational licensing laws Texas Dem: ‘I don’t know what to believe’ about what Trump wants for wall MORE (R-Texas). Cruz suggested including a provision that automatically cuts taxes further if economic growth is more robust than projected, in addition to a trigger that increases taxes if economic growth is slower than anticipated.

A number of activists with right-leaning groups are also pushing back against the trigger concept.

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist said in a statement: “No one invests in response to ‘maybe.’ A trigger that threatens tax hikes is a self-fulfilling threat to kill jobs.”

Brent Gardner, chief government affairs officer at Americans for Prosperity, said a trigger provision "would add unnecessary complexity and uncertainty into the tax code, stifle the economy and generate less revenue."