GOP eyes tax framework for Sept. 25 release

Greg Nash

Key Congressional Republicans and administration officials are planning to release a “consensus” tax-reform framework the week of Sept. 25, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) told his colleagues Wednesday.

Brady told reporters after a House GOP conference meeting that the framework will include the “core elements of tax reform.”

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said during a press conference that the framework will be “the beginning of a very important process to achieve for the first time in a generation overhauling our tax system and giving middle-class families a much deserved break.” 

{mosads}Brady said during the meeting that once the tax framework comes out, the House and Senate will focus on passing a budget resolution by mid-October, according to a person in the room. Republicans need to approve a budget resolution if they want to be able to pass tax legislation through “reconciliation” so that a bill doesn’t need votes from Democrats in the Senate.

After the budget process is complete, the House Ways and Means Committee will release a bill, and the legislation will be considered in committee before being considered on the floor. 

The House Budget Committee approved a resolution with reconciliation instructions for tax reform in July. However, members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus have been pressing for more information about what a tax bill will look like before a budget measure receives a vote.
Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), a member of the Freedom Caucus, said the tax framework would help members of the group to vote for the budget. 
“Just bullets and structure is all I need,” he said.
Brat said that Freedom Caucus members want more information on taxes ahead of a budget vote after health care legislation didn’t include as many free-market provisions as they expected. He also expressed concerns that there aren’t enough votes just from Republicans to pass tax legislation in the Senate.
Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black (R-Tenn.) said she thinks the tax-reform framework “may help to give some people more confidence that they can support the budget.”
The announcement of a tax framework comes as President Trump has been increasing his outreach to Democrats on taxes. 
Ryan said in a Facebook Live interview with The Associated Press that he thinks a tax bill will receive some votes from Democrats in the House. 
“There aren’t a lot of centrists left, but those that are left, I think they agree with us that it’s high time we reform our tax system,” he said.
But Ryan also defended Republicans’ plans to keep reconciliation on the table. 
“The Republican majority has an obligation and an opportunity to take legislation all the way to the president’s desk,” he said. “And if we have a process that allows us to avoid filibusters, shame on us for not using that process. We’re going to use that process.”
Another issue up in the air is whether the GOP tax bill will add to the deficit. 
If it doesn’t, it will be considered “revenue neutral,” and thus changes can be made permanent. If it does add to the deficit under budget rules, typically a 10-year window, any changes will expire.
Brat said Freedom Caucus members don’t want tax reform to be revenue neutral.
Ryan has expressed an interest in revenue neutrality in the past so that tax changes can be permanent, but when an AP reporter asked Ryan if he’s insisting on a tax bill that won’t add to the deficit, he said he didn’t want to get ahead of the framework announcement.

“We want pro-growth tax reform that will get the economy growing, that will get people back to work, that will give middle-income taxpayers a tax cut and that will put American businesses in a better competitive playing field so that we keep American businesses in America,” he said. “That is more important than anything else.”
Rep. Richard Neal (Mass.), the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, said it is discouraging that Democrats are continuing to be kept out of the process. Still, he said, there is time.
“I’m hopeful Republicans will include Democrats — expanding their so-called ‘Big Six’ to a ‘Big Ten’ — so that we can work together to provide tax relief for our middle class, invest in community colleges and infrastructure, and close loopholes that only benefit the wealthy and big corporations,” Neal said. 

This story was updated at 1:34 p.m.

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