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Negotiators strike deal in principle on tax bill

Senate and House Republicans have struck an “agreement in principle” on a sweeping tax-cut bill that if passed would be the first major piece of legislation signed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out 'subversion' at VA MORE.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchOvernight Finance: NAFTA defenders dig in | Tech pushes Treasury to fight EU on taxes | AT&T faces setback in merger trial | Dems make new case against Trump tax law | Trump fuels fight over gas tax What sort of senator will Mitt Romney be? Not a backbencher, even day one Lawmaker interest in NAFTA intensifies amid Trump moves MORE (R-Utah) told reporters about noon Wednesday of the deal between Senate and House negotiators on taxes.

“We’re going to talk to our members of conference about it at noon,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynLawmakers feel pressure on guns Kasich’s campaign website tones down gun language after Florida shooting Murphy: Trump’s support for background check bill shows gun politics ‘shifting rapidly’ MORE (R-Texas).

Senate Republican leaders say they have the votes to pass the legislation next week.

“I’m confident we’ll pass the bill next week,” Cornyn said. “Earlier is better.”

GOP sources familiar with the conference committee talks said negotiators are now just cleaning up some of the details on paying for last-minute changes to the bill, which would lower the top individual tax rate to 37 percent and set the corporate tax rate at 21 percent, according to a person briefed on the package.

That's slightly higher than the 20 percent corporate rate initially favored by President Trump, a rate that outside groups have lobbied to keep in the package.

House conservatives said they didn't like the bump in the corporate rate. But with a tax victory so close, they said the tweak would not be a deal breaker.

"We don't like it; it causes some consternation. I am concerned about the business rate," Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerFlorida shooting reopens CDC gun research debate Right revolts on budget deal Judge overturns ex-felon voting rights process in Florida MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative 155-member Republican Study Committee caucus, told The Hill on Wednesday. "When these business communities are looking to build, every percentage point is a major factor in this, so we want to be careful in going in that direction.

"But it's not a deal breaker," he added.

The bill would also cap the popular mortgage interest deduction at $750,000, a midpoint compromise between the Senate and House bills.

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Senate Republicans met midday Wednesday in the Mike Mansfield Room off the chamber floor to go over details of the agreement.

Senators left the room feeling positive.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any doubt this is going to be a very pro-growth tax package,” said Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonTrump spars with GOP lawmakers on steel tariffs Overnight Regulation: Trump unveils budget | Sharp cuts proposed for EPA, HHS | Trump aims to speed environmental reviews | Officials propose repealing most of methane leak rule Trump budget seeks savings through ObamaCare repeal MORE (R-Wis.).

“There’s been a real healthy melding of House provisions and Senate provisions. My guess is it’s going to have broad support,” he added.

Several lawmakers warned, however, that the package is not yet final.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRepublicans are avoiding gun talks as election looms The Hill's 12:30 Report Flake to try to force vote on DACA stopgap plan MORE (R-Wis.) will brief House Republicans at 3 p.m. in the Capitol.

Lawmakers are rushing to get the bill done before the Christmas holiday.

Cornyn said he expects the Senate to hold an initial procedural vote Monday and a final vote Tuesday.

The deal will have been struck before the first official House-Senate conference on the bill, which was held Wednesday afternoon.

Democrats have generally been locked out of the process as Republicans have sought to finish their legislation before the end of the year.

The legislation will repeal the federal mandate requiring people to buy insurance — a core piece of ObamaCare. 

The bill also would give some relief to people in high-tax areas by allowing them to deduct up to $10,000 in state and local property or income taxes.

The deduction for pass-through companies will be set at 20 percent, somewhat lower than the 23 percent included in the Senate-passed bill. But that will be offset by lowering the top individual income rate to 37 percent from its current level of 39.6 percent.

Johnson said the pass-through rate will include trusts and establish an effective top tax rate of 29.6 percent.

Negotiators also knocked out a House-passed provision that would eliminate the student loan interest deduction. They also killed a provision that would tax tuition waivers received by some grad students.

“Folks who are in grad school will feel pretty good about the final result,” said Sen. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsCongress fails miserably: For Asian-Americans, immigration proposals are personal attacks Florida shooting reopens CDC gun research debate Congress punts fight over Dreamers to March MORE (R-S.D.).

Meanwhile, a provision to set a corporate alternative minimum tax — which would have raised $40 billion over 10 years — has been stripped out.

Several Senate Republicans are not happy about the proposal to lower the top individual rate to 37 percent but they acknowledged they needed to give some ground to House negotiators. 

“It would not have been one of my high priorities, there would have been other priorities for me but we’re dealing with the House. We all know we’re not going to get everything we want,” Rounds said.

Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Tech: Judge blocks AT&T request for DOJ communications | Facebook VP apologizes for tweets about Mueller probe | Tech wants Treasury to fight EU tax proposal Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand FCC to officially rescind net neutrality rules on Thursday MORE (R-Maine) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioColbert: Students taking action on gun violence 'give me hope' Lawmakers feel pressure on guns Florida lawmaker's aide fired after claiming shooting survivors were 'actors' MORE (R-Fla.) also balked at lowering the top individual rate to 37 percent, but it’s unlikely that the change will cause them to oppose the bill.

“I’m going to wait and look at the entire conference report once it comes out,” Collins said.

The Trump administration and GOP leaders have helped win over Collins by promising to pass legislation to shore up the individual health insurance markets.

Vice President Pence assured Collins of the commitment to pass legislation authorizing the payment of subsidies to insurance companies and funding states to set up high-risk reinsurance pools to keep premiums in check.

“I had a very good discussion with the vice president yesterday about that issue and I feel certain the agreement that I negotiated will be kept — this year,” she said.

Jordain Carney contributed.

Updated: 1:22 p.m.