House adopts Senate budget, takes step toward tax reform
House Republicans on Thursday narrowly adopted the Senate’s version of the 2018 budget resolution, overcoming a key hurdle for the party’s tax-reform plan.
The budget will allow Republicans to pass a tax overhaul that adds up to $1.5 trillion to the deficit through a process known as reconciliation, which only requires 51 votes to pass in the Senate.
Twenty Republicans voted against the budget in the 216-212 vote, more than the 18 who voted against the original House version earlier this month.
Most of the 20 defectors were centrists hailing from populous states that could stand to lose from eliminating the state and local tax deduction.
Those lawmakers included Reps. Dan Donovan (N.Y.), John Faso (N.Y.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), John Katko (N.Y.), Pete King (N.Y.), Leonard Lance (N.J.), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Tom MacArthur (N.J.), Chris Smith (N.J.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), Claudia Tenney (N.Y.) and Lee Zeldin (N.Y.).
“We must provide middle-class tax relief and lower the burdens on job-creating small businesses. I could not, however, vote in support of a budget resolution that singled out for elimination the ability of New York families to deduct state and local taxes,” Faso said in a statement.
Some Republicans, like Katko, were seen on the House floor hovering near the House GOP whip team and waited until the last moment to cast their votes. Two more votes in opposition would have doomed final passage.
A handful of conservatives also voted against the budget: Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Ken Buck (Colo.), John Duncan (Tenn.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Lynn Jenkins (Kan.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Thomas Massie (Ky.) and Mark Sanford (S.C.).
While the budget allocates $1.1 trillion to defense and nondefense discretionary spending and routine disaster relief and war on terror funding, Republicans have viewed it as little more than a vehicle for tax reform.
The pressure to get moving on tax reform spurred many conservatives, including those in the House Freedom Caucus, to get on board with the Senate budget despite their push for spending cuts.
Some conservatives still joined with centrists wary of the fate of the state and local tax deduction out of concern for the budget’s impact on the deficit.
“Passing a budget that doesn’t address out-of-control spending and adds trillions of dollars to the national debt just to achieve some policy goal — which also could be accomplished with a responsible budget — is an endorsement of a warped worldview where the end justifies the means,” the libertarian-minded House Liberty Caucus said in a statement urging members to vote against the budget.
House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black (R-Tenn.), who is running for governor of Tennessee, agreed to drop the House’s version of the budget, which passed earlier in the month, in order to expedite tax reform.
That plan included billions more in defense spending, cuts to nondefense spending and $203 billion in mandatory spending cuts over a decade.
“Passing a budget is never easy, and it has once again been a challenge this year,” Black said.
“Without question, there are plenty of things I wish were included in what the Senate passed — ideas that the House put forward earlier this month when we approved our budget. For example, I still feel strongly about addressing unsustainable mandatory spending. That hasn’t changed,” she added.
Adoption of the budget will now set in motion Republicans’ plans to release their long-awaited tax-reform bill in the coming days.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) plans to unveil legislation next week and schedule a time for his panel to consider it the following week.
GOP leaders have laid out an ambitious goal of passing the tax code overhaul by Thanksgiving so that it can be enacted into law by year’s end. Republicans are eager to claim victory on one of their biggest campaign promises after failing to repeal and replace ObamaCare earlier this year.
Democrats excoriated the budget for outlining plans that would cut programs such as Medicare and Medicaid in an effort to balance the budget over a decade.
“There’s a lot of unjustifiable provisions in this budget. On top of massive tax cuts for the rich, it cuts vital national investments, threatening our economic progress and our national security,” said House Budget Committee ranking member John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), citing more than $4 trillion in mandatory spending cuts and almost $2 trillion in cuts from Medicare and Medicaid.
“The enormity of these cuts and the severity of the consequences for American families cannot be overstated,” he added.
The budget did not include provisions to enact or enforce the proposed cuts.
For years, Congress has failed to pass budget and spending bills through regular order, and this budget’s adoption comes nearly four weeks into the fiscal year. The House approved 12 spending bills aligned with its earlier budget resolution, now pushed to the side. The Senate has only passed a fraction of its spending bills through committee and approved none on the floor.
The government is running on a three-month spending extension of 2017 spending, which will expire on Dec. 8.
Republicans and Democrats are gearing up for intense negotiations over a final spending package. Without a deal or another extension, the government will shut down. Even an additional stopgap measure will only be able to take the government into late January, when strict budget caps will kick in and curtail spending across the board.
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