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Lawmakers On Capitol Hill Expected To Clash Over Competing Tax Bills

Nov 10, 2017
Originally published on November 10, 2017 6:17 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Before you know it, it's going to be time do our taxes again.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Good times.

GREENE: Yeah, which is great. So excited about that. And we've got to say, there will not be any major changes to how we do our taxes this year regardless of what happens in Congress over the next few months. But if Republicans pull off their plan, the tax code could look very different in the future.

We're beginning to get a clearer picture of how different that might be. Republican senators released their tax plan yesterday. Their counterparts in the House have been pushing their own version toward a vote. And let's talk about this with NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro. Hey Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So I know we've been talking a lot about the politics here and how hard it is to do a tax overhaul but can I just ask you - I mean, thinking about this newly released Senate plan, how could this affect all of us - people who pay taxes and how we, you know, put our taxes together?

MONTANARO: And we'll do all that in one minute.

GREENE: There you go.

(LAUGHTER)

GREENE: Easy.

MONTANARO: Well, I mean, there's a bunch of differences between what the Senate and House tried to do. But the big overarching thing that the two of them are trying to do is lower the corporate tax rate - that's a big piece of it - from 35 to 20 percent, which both bills do. You know, and there are a lot of different brackets right now. There are seven brackets. The Senate has - maintains those seven. And the House has four.

So I'll just give you a couple of examples. At the top, the House had left it the same, and the Senate would reduce the top for those who are the the wealthiest from 39.6 to 38.5. So a small tax cut but a significant one for them. And the bottom would remain at 10 percent in the Senate bill and would go up slightly in the House bill to 12 percent. So you see where they're sort of tweaking around the edges.

And everyone in between would supposedly get a bit of a tax break, but there are certain popular deductions that are eliminated that make a lot of people wonder whether or not it will be, you know, a significant tax break, if any at all, for those in between.

GREENE: So Democrats have been criticizing all of this, saying that these Republican plans are going to blow up the deficit. But I'm wondering about inside the GOP because aren't Republicans more famous for being deficit hawks?

MONTANARO: Yeah. You know, that is one of those things. I mean, Republicans are supposed to be the ones who are concerned about the deficit and debt. But, you know, it seems that the out party is always the one that's more concerned about the deficit and debt. You saw it during the Bush years where the debt was run up with the price of wars and the tax cuts. And, you know, with spending to try to avert or try to recover from the economic crisis, President Obama pushed a bunch of plans that wound up adding to the debt and deficit. But you do have some Republicans who are concerned about that.

So Republicans - again, the math is the same. They can only lose two Republicans. And right now you've got Bob Corker and Rand Paul - Bob Corker from Tennessee, Paul from Kentucky - who said they're not going to vote for this thing because it adds, you know, one and a half or more trillion dollars to the deficit. And now you also have Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona speaking out and saying, well, I'm not sure I like this thing adding to the debt and deficit.

And there are other concerns from people like Susan Collins from Maine who doesn't want to give a big tax cut to the wealthy, Senator Lee from Utah and Senator Rubio from Florida who are concerned about child care. So you've got a lot of disparate potential problems for Republicans here. And again, they can only lose two.

GREENE: Well, can - I mean, with some of the differences they need to work out between the House and Senate bill with these concerns about the deficit, with these concerns about tax breaks to the rich, can Republicans bring this all together and meet this ambitious deadline? The president has said to get it done by Christmas.

MONTANARO: It really is an ambitious deadline. You know, you have the - a committee hearing next week in the Senate. The House is aiming to bring it to the floor next week. They want it out of committee in the Senate by Thanksgiving and then passage by the end of the year. That is very ambitious. There's not a lot of working days in between now and then. And, you know, Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic majority - the Democratic minority leader, said that he sees this as a lose-lose for Republicans - lose if it passes, lose if it doesn't.

GREENE: NPR's political editor Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, thanks.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.