With tax vote Thursday, House GOP leaders ironing out last-minute concerns
Posted November 14, 2017 12:23 p.m. EST
(CNN) — House Republicans are forging ahead with plans to vote on their tax bill Thursday just weeks after the legislation was first released.
Most lawmakers are upbeat about their bill's prospect, with members from all corners of the conference from the conservative House Freedom Caucus to the moderate Tuesday Group telling CNN that they plan to vote "yes."
But as with all legislation, Republican leaders are still ironing out last-minute concerns and whipping their bill.
Some conservatives are still calling on leadership to include a repeal of the health insurance individual mandate, which they argue would allow the party to cut individual taxes even further. President Donald Trump also tweeted Monday he'd like to see the individual mandate repeal included as well as a lowering of the top tax rate to 35%. But leadership has said so far that they plan to bring the bill to the floor Thursday as is.
"Look, we're pushing this bill as we have it," House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Tuesday when asked about Trump's request. "There's ongoing conversations. It's a work in progress. ... We're going to go to a conference committee and we're going to address all these issues and we're taking feedback from all of our members on an ongoing basis."
While many House Republicans say they plan to vote for the House bill, Republican rank-and-file members are concerned about what comes next. Many are sounding the alarm on the Senate's plan for tax reform and warning they don't want to be left walking the plank on a tax bill only to see the Senate not act. Republican House members remember all too well the way that they passed their version of health care first -- only to see the Senate fumble the ball and fail to pass anything in the end. Rep. Mark Amodei, a Republican from Nevada, said Republicans raised those concerns in a closed conference meeting Tuesday morning.
During the health care debate, Amodei said that members remember that the Senate Republicans "shredded" their effort apart and now senators are asking the House to vote their bill out of the chamber first once again.
"We're looking around now going ... so we gotta go first and then you shoot the tires out again?" Amodei said.
Republicans are also concerned about the contents of the Senate bill. Members don't like the fact that the Senate bill delays the reduction in the corporate rate to 20% by a year. The Senate tax plan also fully repeals the popular state and local property, sales and income tax deduction. That is a nonstarter for some California and northeast House Republicans who hail from high-tax states.
Rep. Darrell Issa said he plans to vote "no" at Thursday's House vote on their tax bill, which retains the property tax deduction up to $10,000.
Issa told CNN that the Senate bill, which is being marked up in committee this week, was even worse.
Gary Cohn, the President's top economic adviser, met late Monday afternoon with House Republicans tasked with securing the votes for the bill, and according to one GOP source in the meeting, several members pressed for a commitment that the White House would not just accept the Senate version of the bill, but help fight for key provisions of the House legislation.
Cohn stressed how much Trump wanted the House bill to pass this week and said the White House did prefer several items in the House measure, such as the rollback of the estate tax and the more immediate lowering of the corporate tax rate.
House GOP Whip Steve Scalise met Monday night with Republicans from New York and New Jersey who are concerned about the elimination of the state income tax deduction. Separately, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California was meeting with Republicans from his home state who raised problems with the same issue.
House leaders have prepared analysis of the average family's tax relief from the bill and hope to convince many of these members that the overall impact of tax reform will outweigh their opposition to dropping a key tax break.
Meanwhile, the Senate finance committee entered day two of marking up its bill. Minority Democrats on the panel argued the bill was overly complex and would benefit wealthy corporations at the expense of middle class income earners. Republicans retorted saying the plan would bring back money from overseas and simplify the tax filing process for individuals.
Still, House Republicans say their leadership appears confident that they are at the very least trending in the right direction to deliver the votes to pass their tax plan Thursday.
"I think the votes are there," said Rep. Mark Walker, a leader of the Republican Study Committee. "I think there is a little shoring up and a little concern as far as we merge what the Senate is pushing down toward us vs. what we want out of it."