GOP ready to pass tax bill — without Trump’s help
Speaker Paul Ryan and his top lieutenants are working behind the scenes on a few tax reform holdouts. But House Republicans think they’ve already got enough votes lined up — and aren’t turning to President Donald Trump to flip any opponents.
Republicans have also sped up their timeline; they held their first procedural vote on the massive tax-cuts package Wednesday afternoon, a key test whose party-line approval will provide further momentum for the bill. The final passage vote is set for Thursday morning, soon after Trump rallies the GOP conference at an 11:30 a.m. closed-door meeting in the Capitol.
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There’s little room for error for Republicans. House Democrats have been working to keep their 194-member caucus together, not only to show unified opposition but to deny Republicans any opportunity to tout the bill as a bipartisan effort.
Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal, top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, has been keeping close tabs on the caucus’ most squishy members for months and recently redoubled his outreach to individuals who may be considering voting for the GOP plan. On Wednesday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer predicted that not a single Democrat will vote for the tax package.
“I don’t think we’ll lose anybody,” Hoyer told reporters. “I think the consensus conclusion of almost every Democrat — pro-business Democrat, conservative Democrat — is that this bill is not good for the country, is not good for average working people.”
White House sources say they’re focusing all their energy on the Senate, with little concern about the House vote. The House whip team has not had to turn to the president to move people from “no” to “yes” — if only because most Republicans are so desperate for a legislative win. That’s a shift from a few months ago, when Trump persuaded wavering House members to pass legislation repealing Obamacare.
Republicans can afford to lose only 22 GOP votes. Most of those opponents, House Republican sources say, will be lawmakers from high-tax states, including half the delegation from New York and most of New Jersey, and perhaps one or two from California. Those members’ constituents could see a tax increase under the GOP plan because the bill axes their most prized tax break: the state and local tax deduction.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has been working to keep fellow California Republicans on board after Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) peeled off last week. It’s unclear whether any other Golden State Republicans will join him opposing the legislation, though sources say several are concerned about how the bill will affect their districts.
Meanwhile, some conservatives are sulking over leadership’s refusal to include a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate in the tax bill.
GOP leaders originally argued that mixing controversial health care matters with taxes could kill the tax package, legislation they feel they must pass to save their majority in 2018. They speculated that the Senate would be unlikely to pass such legislation if the two were combined — particularly because the upper chamber failed to rally around a single Obamacare replacement proposal.
But on Tuesday, Senate Republicans added the mandate repeal to their bill, surprising House GOP leaders and causing envy among some rank-and-file House members. Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker (R-N.C.) tried to convince House leaders Tuesday night to add the mandate repeal to the House bill, offering an amendment cosigned by 60 House Republicans during a Rules Committee hearing to combine the two issues. Leaders rebuffed him.