House Republicans on Tuesday decisively advanced their party’s tax-reform bill, setting up what was expected to be a similar win later in the day in the Senate before the legislation heads to the desk of President Donald Trump for his signature.
The 227-203 vote – cast only days after a congressional conference committee released the final text of a unified proposal reconciling differences between companion legislation passed separately by the House and Senate – appeared to inch the GOP closer to its first significant legislative victory of 2017 and the first substantive tax reform in decades.
The victory turned out to be short-lived, when it was revealed that a parliamentary roadblock will force GOP leadership to schedule a re-vote for Wednesday morning. Certain aspects of the legislation were found to be in violation of the Byrd Rule, which limits what kinds of provisions can be passed with simple majority through reconciliation.
But the re-vote was expected only to delay the inevitable, as few lawmakers had indicated their votes hinged on the rather minor details found to be in violation of the Byrd Rule – including tweaks to 529 savings plans.
House lawmakers this week were presented with a very different piece of legislation than they originally passed last month – as provisions were included that would, among other things, strip away the individual mandate provisions of Obamacare that require most Americans to purchase health care or face a penalty
The final report also added slightly more flexibility to state and local deductions than were included in either the House or Senate proposals, but they didn’t appear to have a significant impact on the final vote count.
The bill’s initial passage wasn’t particularly surprising, especially given the GOP’s considerable majority in the House. But that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., felt comfortable enough earlier in the day to announce that the Senate would move its vote up to Tuesday afternoon speaks to the degree of confidence Republican leadership has in its vote-whipping.
We are about to achieve some really big things – things that have been scoffed at by skeptics for years, decades, even,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said on the House floor Tuesday afternoon. “This is without question the single most important thing we can do to once again make America the best place to do business.”
Democrats uniformly opposed the legislation, and no left-leaning lawmaker to this point has voted in favor of the GOP-constructed bill. Democrats also failed to pass a measure that would have recommitted the conference report to the congressional committee. Such a procedure would have sent the tax bill back a step, forcing lawmakers from the House and Senate to reconvene and possibly buying enough time for Doug Jones, the Democratic victor of Alabama’s special election, to arrive on Capitol Hill and chip away at the GOP majority in the Senate.
Among other things, the tax bill will lower the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from a current 35 percent, retool the burden faced by pass-through businesses and tweak the rates levied by America’s seven individual income brackets.
The Senate is now expected to vote on the tax package at some point later Tuesday – though the body will do so without John McCain, R-Ariz., who has returned to his home state to recover from ongoing chemotherapy associated with his treatments for brain cancer.
To this point, Sen. Jeff Flake, McCain’s fellow Arizona Republican, represents the only undecided vote within the GOP’s ranks, although he ended up voting in favor of the Senate-specific tax package.
But even if he aligns himself with Democrats, the bill should still pass by a vote of 50-49.