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Republicans grapple with tax reform as bill release is delayed

It was supposed to be the day the House Republicans finally unveiled their long-anticipated bill to overhaul the tax code.

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Lauren Fox, Ashley Killough
Jeff Zeleny (CNN)
(CNN) — It was supposed to be the day the House Republicans finally unveiled their long-anticipated bill to overhaul the tax code.

Instead, it marked the first setback.

House Republicans announced late Wednesday night that they would not release their tax reform plan Wednesday, instead punting it a day so that the committee could continue working on the legislation.

"Ways and means committee members met tonight to discuss the work we are doing on pro-growth tax reform. In consultation with President Trump and our leadership team, we have decided to release the bill text on Thursday," Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady announced in a statement. "We are pleased with the progress we are making and we remain on schedule to take action and approve a bill at our Committee beginning next week."

Sources on Capitol Hill and at the White House told CNN Tuesday evening that the GOP bill's release would be delayed until Thursday, but adding to the confusion, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady emerged after a three-hour meeting with his committee members to say that there were no scheduling changes to announce just minutes before he finally announced the bill had been delayed.

"We are making excellent progress," the Texas Republican said at the time. "We are very close to what we set out to do, bold, pro-growth tax reform. A lot (of) work remains with the drafters right now. They will continue to work through the night. We're moving forward. No announcement of change in the schedule."

After months of fractious negotiations, House Republicans appear to be struggling to deliver on their first of many ambitious deadlines on tax reform. The party was supposed to be ready Wednesday with a tax bill that lowered the corporate tax rate to 20%, reduced the number of individual rates from seven to four, boosted the child tax credit, eradicated many deductions and closed loopholes, something that hadn't been done in decades.

But the leaders had encountered clear obstacles from some of their own members.

Over the weekend, Brady had to make a key concession on SALT, a tax break that allows individuals to deduct state and local taxes on their federal returns. The original tax framework eradicated SALT, but Brady announced over the weekend that he would preserve the property tax deduction to assuage concerns from rank-and-file members from high-tax states. But, Brady was still talking to members of his conference Tuesday and it was unclear if the deal he'd announced over the weekend would satisfy members.

"Property tax was a step in the right direction, but it's not enough," said Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican.

In recent days, members of the House ways and means committee huddled around the clock to put the finishing touches on the bill with many admitting that they were still working through issues -- including how to offset tax cuts -- in the final hours.

"There are a few hang ups left," Rep. Pat Tiberi, a Republican from Ohio, told reporters Tuesday afternoon.

Conservatives from outside groups met with House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday and said they left feeling there was still work to do even though they were optimistic about the direction of the bill.

"I left the meeting with the impression that that bill is not done," Adam Brandon, the President of FreedomWorks, told CNN. "They have to hammer out the final deal with some of these Northeastern Republicans on that SALT deduction."

Down Pennsylvania Avenue, one White House aide told CNN that the White House wasn't concerned about the delay.

The aide told CNN it would give House members more time to discuss the language and resolve any outstanding differences.

And Trump himself appeared to be highlighting the work congressional Republicans were doing late into Halloween evening.

"The Republican House members are working hard (and late) toward the Massive Tax Cuts that they know you deserve. These will be biggest ever!" Trump tweeted.

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