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 TrumpOklahoma City Thunder players kneel during anthem despite threat from GOP state lawmaker Microsoft moving forward with talks to buy TikTok after conversation with Trump Controversial Trump nominee placed in senior role after nomination hearing canceled 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 RosensteinFBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book Sally Yates to testify as part of GOP probe into Russia investigation Graham releases newly declassified documents on Russia probe 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 BradyStimulus checks debate now focuses on size, eligibility Pelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive Trump signs executive orders aimed at lowering drug prices 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 ChuOcasio-Cortez, Democrats blast GOP on House floor for 'culture' of sexism House votes to repeal Trump travel ban Minority caucuses call for quick action on police reform 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.