Corker unveils tax reform details

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a key member of the Senate Budget Committee, unveiled some details Tuesday about what kind of guidelines the committee resolution would include for tax reform. 

Corker told reporters that the budget resolution that will unlock the process for reconciliation — the procedure that will allow Republicans to pass tax reform without Democratic support — could be marked up in the coming week or two, depending on whether the Senate is focused on health care. 

Corker said a deal was in the works on the committee to write a significant amount of tax breaks into the reconciliation instructions, in order to increase lawmakers’ flexibility in the legislative process. To take advantage of reconciliation, the Senate will have to both stick to the instructions written by the budget committee and follow other strict rules pertaining to deficits. 

{mosads}“I’m OK giving a little headways there, but the final analysis for me would be, ‘is it truly pro-growth?’ ” said Corker, a deficit hawk.

Corker added that he would not ultimately vote for a final tax bill that increased the deficit.  

“The only thing it really does is begin the tax reform discussion,” he said.  

The instructions, he continued, would use “current law” as the baseline for determining the deficit implications, rejecting a scheme to use “current policy” — an alternative measure that would allow extra deficit spending into the bill. 

Corker said the Treasury Department was intending to use modest growth forecasts in their projections. The White House faced criticism from economists for sunny growth projections that stabilized at 3 percent, which it relied on to eliminate the deficit in its budget proposal.

“I don’t think Treasury will be using near as high of a number as you think on growth, so I think it’s gonna be sub-three,” he said.

Corker also said Congress would not necessarily rely on the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) score of the tax bill as the final determinant of its effects on the deficit. Some conservatives and many administration officials have criticized the neutral, nonpartisan CBO for its assessments on the effects of bills. 

“There are other rational scores that will be used, but I’m sure CBO will be taken into account, too,” Corker said.

Not everyone agreed that a deal was imminent, however. 

“Apparently other people are closer to a deal that I’m unaware of,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), another key member of the budget committee. 

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said he’d asked budget committee chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) to gather the committee for a meeting, but none was scheduled yet. 

Enzi, for his part, would only say that he remained optimistic about reaching a deal.

“I’m always optimistic,” he added, somewhat glumly. 

Groups opposed to increasing the debt reacted negatively to reports that the committee would be open to $1.5 trillion in tax cuts.

“With the U.S. in such a dangerous fiscal situation, policymakers shouldn’t even consider voluntarily adding another $1.5 trillion to our national debt,” said Michael A. Peterson, President and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, had similar criticisms.

 “This debt-dependent approach to tax reform flies in the face of the fiscal discipline so many members of the Budget Committee have voiced concern about in the past and violates pay-as-you-go principles and law,” MacGuineas said. 

Tags Bob Corker John Kennedy Mike Enzi Ron Johnson

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