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 TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border MORE.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchThe FDA crackdown on dietary supplements is inadequate Orrin Hatch Foundation seeking million in taxpayer money to fund new center in his honor Mitch McConnell has shown the nation his version of power grab 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 CornynSenate plots to avoid fall shutdown brawl Inviting Kim Jong Un to Washington Trump endorses Cornyn for reelection as O'Rourke mulls challenge 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 WalkerPartnerships paving the way to sustain and support Historically Black Colleges and Universities Lawmaker seeks to ban ex-members from lobbying until sexual harassment settlements repaid Florida governor suspends Palm Beach County elections supervisor 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 JohnsonWhite House, GOP defend Trump emergency declaration GOP senator says Republicans didn't control Senate when they held majority GOP senator voices concern about Trump order, hasn't decided whether he'll back it 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 RyanFive takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race McCabe: No one in 'Gang of Eight' objected to FBI probe into Trump 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 RoundsGOP senator: Trump thinks funding deal is 'thin gruel' Lawmakers put Pentagon's cyber in their sights Endorsing Trump isn’t the easiest decision for some Republicans 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 CollinsGraham: 'Handful' of GOP senators will vote to block Trump's emergency declaration Dems set up Tuesday vote to block Trump's emergency declaration The Hill's Morning Report — Emergency declaration to test GOP loyalty to Trump MORE (R-Maine) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOn The Money: Dems set Tuesday vote on Trump's emergency declaration | Most Republicans expected to back Trump | Senate plots to avoid fall shutdown drama | Powell heading before Congress Brown, Rubio trade barbs over ‘dignity of work’ as Brown mulls presidential bid The Hill's Morning Report — Emergency declaration to test GOP loyalty to Trump 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.