House Republicans still bullish on tax bill after whip effort

 In Politics

The House Ways and Means Committee is pictured here. | Getty Images

House Ways and Means Committee members hold a markup of the proposed GOP tax reform legislation.

A vote is expected on Thursday, and GOP leaders say they have the votes.

Updated


House Republicans are stepping up their whip effort behind major tax legislation poised for a floor vote Thursday and expressing confidence they’ll have the votes to pass it.

With many Republicans calling it a “make-or-break” moment for their majority, House GOP leaders and Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady sounding decidedly bullish.

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“We do and will have the votes for passage,” Brady (R-Texas) said, heading into a whip meeting on Monday night.

Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) said he felt “very good” about the whip check. And a half-dozen deputy whips echoed those comments after huddling with White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn in the basement of the Capitol, where there was no talk of delaying the vote.

Indeed, leadership sources say the process has gone surprisingly well — a sign of how desperate Republicans are to notch a legislative victory after their failure to repeal Obamacare.

“I think it’ll be there,” said Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas). “I mean if guys like me are voting for it, after all the issues I had with it? I had a different idea of what it should look like, but it’s got some good stuff in it that will help jumpstart our country.”

The movement comes as Trump returns to Washington from a five-nation tour of Asia. Some Republicans have worried privately that the president could upset the talks with off-the-cuff tweets. Many Republicans were relieved that Trump was gone for much of the House’s legislative work on the bill.

As if on cue, Trump tweeted Monday morning that while he is “proud” of Congress’ tax reform progress, he still wants them to include a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate as part of the bill — and slash the top individual rate from 39.6 percent in the House to 35 percent.

“How about ending the unfair & highly unpopular Indiv Mandate in OCare & reducing taxes even further? Cut top rate to 35% w/all of the rest going to middle income cuts?” he wrote.

While Brady said Monday that the such changes “remains under consideration,” GOP leadership sources say neither is going to happen. Many Republicans agree in theory with Trump on rescinding the individual mandate. But leaders worry that adding controversial health care policy into the mix would sink their tax bill.

Cutting the top individual rate to 35 percent is also unlikely due to the sheer cost — money Republicans can’t spare if they want to circumvent Democrats and pass the tax bill by a majority vote in the Senate. Trump originally urged the House to keep the top rate at 39.6 percent, and Republicans are trying to sell their bill as a boon to the middle class, not the wealthy.

Republican supporters of Trump’s ideas aren’t prepared to fight for them at this point — if only because they want to move the process along. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said Monday that while he’d prefer to include the individual mandate repeal, he and his fellow conservatives weren’t going to hold up the tax bill this week.

The group, typically a thorn in leadership’s side, has given leaders rare space to write and negotiate the tax bill. While the caucus did not endorse the tax bill during its weekly meeting Monday evening, Meadows said he believe members are mostly “cautious yeses.”

“I do fully expect that the bill will move forward and pass on Thursday, based on our whip count and based on the general understanding of where the rest of the conference is,” Meadows said. “If anything it’s just a cautious ‘yes’ on moving the process forward with the full understanding that there’s still a number of issues that have to be worked out before final passage.”

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