Republican leaders in Congress are charging toward the end of the year with two major goals in mind: Passing a landmark overhaul of the US tax system and keeping the federal government running.
Here’s where congressional leaders have left those two goals going into the weekend:
What about the tax bill?
Efforts to reconcile the House and Senate tax bills continue into the weekend.
As of Friday morning, one GOP Senate aide described the negotiations as still in their early stages even as lawmakers only have a matter of a week or so to iron out their differences before the planned holiday break. The biggest hurdle remains the fact that the Senate must fit its bill through a narrow set of Senate rules, including one that says the bill cannot add to the country’s deficit after a decade.
Where are the sticking points?
The Senate tax bill kept some provisions like the corporate alternative minimum tax that the House is looking to repeal, but money is an issue.
Other differences between the two bills include the fact that the Senate plan repeals the individual mandate and doesn’t fully repeal the estate tax like the House bill does. The House bill also caps the mortgage interest deduction at $500,000 instead of $1 million.
Will the votes be there?
In both the House and the Senate, the vote margins are slim. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can only afford to lose two Republicans and still pass his tax bill. Already, he has lost Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee. And Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, has said she won’t be a rubber stamp on the conference bill until she sees the final plan.
“I’m going to look at what comes out of the conference committee meeting to reconcile the differences between the Senate and House bill. So, I won’t make a final decision until I see what that package is,” she told CNN affiliate CBS WABI.
Adding to the pressure is the fact that outside groups and lobbyists have stepped up their efforts to influence the bill. The bonanza hasn’t just stopped with the passage of the bill in the House and Senate.
So, what’s the bottom line?
Many in the Senate are upbeat about the prospects for passing the tax bill, however. The fact remains that lawmakers feel like they have gotten far, and no one wants to drop the ball now.
“I am pretty optimistic because we all recognize that goal No. 1 is growing our economy,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin who was a key vote on the Senate bill. “It’s important to all of us, so I don’t think any of us are going to let our vision of perfect get in the way of actually getting something passed.”
What about the government shutdown? Any breakthroughs there?
No, according to all involved.
Republicans are still pushing back on the domestic non-defense spending numbers, especially with all of the other add-ons (disaster supplemental and the Children Health Insurance Program, etc.) that are expected in the package. Democrats are still pushing for parity, or as close to it as possible.
What remains crystal clear:
There is no fix to the expiration of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. All but one of the involved principals at the table has gotten to that place. But that one — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — is obviously pretty important.
Whether that leads to a shutdown of some sort is the open question.
Of note: Staff have been working and working on a caps deal for weeks. Some involved were pleased that there was no blow-up Thursday at the White House while congressional leaders from both parties met with President Donald Trump.
But the lack of a breakthrough was also frustrating to several involved. The dynamic is going to have to change soon, because there are other serious issues and political problems that need to be addressed after the caps deal is reached before any deal can pass.