House passes two bills in new GOP tax package

House passes two bills in new GOP tax package
© Greg Nash

The House on Thursday passed two of the three bills in House Republicans’ second tax-cut package, with GOP lawmakers pushing to put attention on President TrumpDonald John TrumpChasten Buttigieg: 'I've been dealing with the likes of Rush Limbaugh my entire life' Lawmakers paint different pictures of Trump's 'opportunity zone' program We must not turn our heads from the effects of traumatic brain injuries MORE’s 2017 tax law and the economy in advance of the November midterm elections.

One of the bills, which is aimed at encouraging taxpayers to save more money, passed by a vote of 240-177. A second bill, designed to incentivize business innovation, passed by a vote of 260-156. Both votes fell largely along party lines.

The House is expected to vote Friday on the third and most prominent piece of the tax package, dubbed “Tax Reform 2.0,” which would make permanent the 2017 tax law changes to the individual code.

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House Republicans rolled out the 2.0 tax package earlier this month so that they could highlight their 2017 law — their biggest legislative accomplishment since Trump took office.

But it’s unclear whether the package will benefit Republicans’ politically. A recent poll commissioned by the Republican National Committee found that most voters think the 2017 law benefits the wealthy and corporations more than it does the middle class.

Additionally, Thursday’s votes were overshadowed by a Senate hearing on allegations of assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Trump’s meeting with Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinGraham requests interviews with DOJ, FBI officials as part of probe into Russia investigation DOJ won't charge former FBI Deputy Director McCabe Rosenstein says he authorized release of Strzok-Page texts MORE.

The savings bill the House passed Thursday would make it easier for small businesses to offer retirement plans to their employees, create universal savings accounts and allow 529 education savings plans to be used for more purposes.

The business innovation-focused bill would allow new companies to write off more of their start-up costs.

Republicans praised the bills. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyDemocrats, GOP spar over Treasury rules on Trump tax law Ex-HHS chief threatens to vote 'no' on surprise medical billing measure Bipartisan Ways and Means leaders unveil measure to stop surprise medical bills MORE (R-Texas) said the innovation bill “will help America’s risk-takers create jobs” and that the savings bill “helps families save earlier and save more throughout their life.”

Democrats have also expressed interest in encouraging retirement savings and entrepreneurship. A bipartisan retirement savings bill with some similarities to the House bill passed the Senate Finance Committee in 2016.

But Democrats largely opposed the bills because they weren’t involved in writing the bills and because the bills didn’t get hearings.

“Democrats were shut out of the process once again as the bill was rushed to the floor,” Rep. Judy ChuJudy May ChuHouse Democrats launch probe into NIH and FBI suspecting Chinese Americans of espionage Harris, Castro introduce resolution condemning Trump aide Stephen Miller Abortion wars flare up in Congress MORE (D-Calif.) said of the innovation bill.

Democrats also argued that the savings bill and the overall tax package would largely benefit the wealthy and would add to the debt.