House GOP set for big tax win

House Republicans are poised Thursday to pass a sweeping tax-reform package that, if enacted, would deliver the first major legislative victory of the Trump era.

President Trump will visit Capitol Hill ahead of the vote to rally support, but it appears there will be little need to twist arms.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and fellow leaders have been in a buoyant mood all week, signaling they have the 217 votes needed to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

And the days leading up to the vote have been relatively drama-free, as the three main House GOP factions — the far-right Freedom Caucus, conservative Republican Study Committee and moderate Tuesday Group — have either backed the bill or stayed on the sidelines.

{mosads}It’s a dramatic departure from turmoil that surrounded the health-care debate earlier this year, when poisonous GOP infighting essentially doomed the legislation.

“It’s more than just a tax bill. It will show that Republicans can get things done,” said Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), a senior member of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s (R-La.) vote-counting operation.

During his 12-day Asia tour, Trump stayed engaged on tax reform. He made several key calls to lawmakers during critical points in the negotiations, said some of those who received calls. And two top Trump aides, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and legislative affairs director Marc Short, have been a regular presence on Capitol Hill during the tax push.

The president will huddle with Republicans at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in a private conference room to discuss how cutting taxes and simplifying the tax code will boost the economy and help American businesses and workers, according to White House aides.

“It’s the pep rally right before the big game,” said one House Republican.

The big tax-reform vote will allow Republicans to recapture the headlines in a week that has been dominated by allegations of sexual misconduct made against Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore.

But there’s also a small concern among some Republicans that Trump could veer off message during his visit to the Capitol and somehow disrupt the coalition for the tax bill that GOP leaders have so carefully assembled.

In March, Trump stormed Capitol Hill ahead of an expected House health-care vote, warning that failure to repeal ObamaCare could cost Republicans their political careers — and their House majority.

“I believe many of you will lose in 2018” if ObamaCare is not repealed, Trump said at the time.

It was a less-than-inspiring message, and shortly after, GOP leaders yanked the bill off the floor after the votes didn’t materialize. Their bill eventually squeaked by in the House weeks later, but the repeal effort fell apart in the Senate.

That Senate collapse is part of the reason GOP lawmakers aren’t expecting to take a victory lap in the White House Rose Garden on Thursday like they did after the House’s successful ObamaCare repeal vote. They don’t want to be seen as celebrating prematurely before Congress can send a final tax package to Trump’s desk.

While the White House and Hill Republicans are much more unified on taxes than they ever were on health care, they still have a long way to go.

Senate Republicans will still need to pass their own tax bill. Their version calls for repealing ObamaCare’s individual insurance mandate and completely eliminates state and local tax (SALT) deductions popular in California, New York, New Jersey and other high-tax states.

The House bill does not touch the insurance mandate but preserves a state and local property tax deduction, capped at $10,000.

If Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can corral 51 votes for the measure, House and Senate negotiators would then need to work out their differences in a conference committee.

It’s in that committee where fireworks could erupt.

Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), for example, said he would vote “yes” on the House tax bill after leaders agreed to keep a $10,000 deduction for local property taxes.

But scrapping the SALT deduction entirely, as the Senate bill would do, is a nonstarter for MacArthur and other Republicans from high-tax states.

“I did what I feel I had to do on the SALT front in the House bill, and now it’s time for me to vote ‘yes’ and then move into the next phase,” MacArthur told reporters. “I fought for the things that matter the most.”

“The House bill is not perfect, but it’s enough for me to say ‘yes,’ ” he said, “And then the rest of what I’m fighting for I’ll work to get in the House-Senate conference.”

On a 235-191 party-line vote on Wednesday, the House passed the rule governing how the tax bill will come to the floor. That was a good omen for members of Scalise’s whip team, some of whom predicted the legislation would attract anywhere from 222 to 225 Republican votes when it hits the floor Thursday.

Leaders are expecting to lose a handful of Republicans from California and the Northeast, but they appear to be OK with that. In a private meeting this week with the New York delegation, Scalise, Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) asked if there were any “no” votes who could switch to “yes.”

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) and two others replied they were firmly “no” votes. And the leaders didn’t press them any further.

“It was all love and friendship. They must think that they have the votes,” King told The Hill on Wednesday.

A top Democratic target in 2018, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), also has told leadership he will vote “no” over concerns his San Diego-area constituents’ taxes would rise under the bill. He suggested there’s nothing Trump could say Thursday to convince him otherwise.

“It’s not about personalities. It’s about the actual bill,” Issa said.

Niv Ellis contributed

Tags Darrell Issa Kevin Brady Mitch McConnell Patrick McHenry Paul Ryan Pete King Tom MacArthur

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