Live Briefing: Senate Budget Committee Approves Tax Bill

“I believe that a lot of my concerns, it appears, are going to be addressed and that I’m going to be getting the opportunity to offer amendments on the senate floor,” Ms. Collins said.

Ms. Collins said that the president was supportive of her wishes that $10,000 of property taxes be deductible under the senate plan, a change that would be similar to the compromise that House Republicans made on the repeal of the state and local tax deduction. She also said that Mr. Trump was supportive of backing legislation that would stabilize health insurance prices that could rise if the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is repealed.

Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, said that Senate Republicans were increasingly united about repealing the requirement that most people buy health insurance.

He said that Mr. Trump was very involved in the details of the tax package on Tuesday and that he took several questions from senators.

Even Republicans on the fence appear to be moving off

When Republican senators returned on Monday from the Thanksgiving recess one big question loomed as they continued to talk taxes.


The Republican Senators Who Might Oppose the Tax Bill

A handful of Republican senators are on the fence about President Trump’s tax plan. Here are their concerns.

By CHRIS CIRILLO on Publish Date November 27, 2017. Photo by Zach Gibson for The New York Times. Watch in Times Video »

Will party leaders be able to come up with 50 votes?

Senate Republicans are attempting once again to approve major legislation using procedures that would allow for passage without any Democratic votes. Their leadership could never reach that 50-vote threshold as they tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act earlier this year. Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate, and they can afford to lose no more than two of their members’ votes, assuming Democrats are unified in opposition and Vice President Mike Pence provides the tiebreaking vote.

By Monday night, it was clear that party leaders still had work to do. At least a half-dozen Republican senators have expressed concerns about the tax overhaul.

By Tuesday, however, several senators who had expressed concerns were saying they felt confident their issues would be addressed. Senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Bob Corker of Tennessee, both of whom had reservations about parts of the Senate bill, voted to approve the bill out of the Budget Committee.

“My primary issue is pass-throughs,” Mr. Johnson said. “The good news is everybody agrees it’s a problem, it has to be fixed. I just keep getting assurances it’s going to be fixed, I just want to see how.”

Mr. Corker, an outspoken deficit hawk, has been worried that the tax overhaul will end up adding to the federal debt if the economic growth projections floated by the administration don’t materialize and the government has to borrow additional money to pay for the tax cuts. To safeguard against that, he wants some kind of mechanism to be added to the legislation that would kick in if projected economic growth from the tax rewrite does not end up materializing.

On Tuesday, Mr. Corker, who is not seeking re-election next year, said the issue had been addressed to his satisfaction.

“I think we’ve come to a pretty acceptable place, from my standpoint,” he said.

Democrats say they’ll boycott Trump meeting


Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leaders, during a news conference this month. Credit Al Drago for The New York Times

The two top Democrats, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, said their party will skip a planned meeting with Mr. Trump and congressional leaders that was scheduled for this afternoon after the president posted on Twitter this morning that he was meeting with “Chuck and Nancy” to discuss ways to avert a government shutdown and wrote “I don’t see a deal!”

“Given that the President doesn’t see a deal between Democrats and the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead,” Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi said in a statement.

“Rather than going to the White House for a show meeting that won’t result in an agreement, we’ve asked Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan to meet this afternoon. We don’t have any time to waste in addressing the issues that confront us, so we’re going to continue to negotiate with Republican leaders who may be interested in reaching a bipartisan agreement.”

Just a few months ago, Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi seemed to be forging a fruitful partnership with Mr. Trump, who refers to them as “Chuck and Nancy.” In September, the president sided with them to strike a fiscal deal that raised the debt limit and extended government funding into December.

Now, lawmakers are facing another pressing fiscal deadline, as government funding expires Dec. 8. Republican leaders in Congress will need Democratic votes in order to keep the government open beyond that date. Mr. Trump’s tweet follows similar comments about the minority party on Monday, when he said he did not need Democrats to support the tax bill moving through Congress.


Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said he was not completely at ease the tax reform bill in its current form. Credit Joshua Roberts/Reuters

White House spokeswoman says Democrats should stop “grandstanding” and show up

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, accused Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer of “pettiness” in declining to attend Tuesday afternoon’s meeting.

“It’s disappointing that Senator Schumer and Leader Pelosi are refusing to come to the table and discuss urgent issues,” she said in a statement. “The president’s invitation to the Democrat leaders still stands and he encourages them to put aside their pettiness, stop the political grandstanding, show up and get to work. These issues are too important.”

Republican leaders say Democrats are playing politics with boycott


President Trump arrived to meet with Republican Senators at the Capitol on Tuesday. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, said in a statement that Democrats need to show up at the meeting if they care about preventing a government shutdown.

“We have important work to do, and Democratic leaders have continually found new excuses not to meet with the administration to discuss these issues,” they said. “Democrats are putting government operations, particularly resources for our men and women on the battlefield, at great risk by pulling these antics. There is a meeting at the White House this afternoon, and if Democrats want to reach an agreement, they will be there.”

Democrats have deep concerns about the tax bill, too

Mr. Schumer, speaking on the Senate floor, pounded on Republicans and Mr. Trump for blocking Democrats from participating in the tax overhaul, saying it would help the rich and corporations instead of the middle class.

“It’s an issue crying out for a bipartisan solution,” he said of the tax rewrite. “There are a lot of areas we agree. We have to work to find a middle ground that’s acceptable to both parties.” The bill as it stands, he said, would balloon the debt and help hedge funds and lobbyists but not average Americans.

Democrats are also worried about a provision in the Senate bill that repeals the requirement that most Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty. Dropping the so-called individual mandate would produce savings that would help pay for the tax cuts, since people would forgo health insurance and therefore the government would spend less on subsidized health coverage.

Right now, about 4.5 percent of tax filers pay a penalty rather than get health insurance. Here’s a look at who they are and where they live:


Millions Pay the Obamacare Penalty Instead of Buying Insurance. Who Are They?

The Senate Republican tax bill includes the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, the requirement that all Americans purchase qualifying health insurance or pay a penalty.

OPEN Graphic

A “dynamic” economic analysis may come on Wednesday

Senate Republicans have been speeding ahead toward a vote on their tax bill even without a “dynamic” score from the Joint Committee on Taxation that would show the effects of the proposed tax cuts on the economy. That score is important, since it will show the extent to which the tax cuts will boost growth and avoid adding to the deficit.

The analysis could roil the tax debate at the 11th hour by giving pause to deficit hawks in the Senate. It would be the first attempt by the committee to project the economic effects of the Republican tax plans. The House passed its bill this month before the committee could complete a so-called dynamic score of the bill.

Outside analysts expect the score will show that the Senate bill does not create nearly enough economic growth to generate revenues to offset those lost via tax cuts. Such a showing would undermine Republicans’ claims that the bill would pay for itself.

In a letter that was sent on Monday to Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, J.C.T. said there is still a chance that such an analysis could be ready this week, perhaps as soon as late Wednesday.

Interactive Graphic

What the Tax Bill Would Look Like for 25,000 Middle-Class Families

We modeled taxes for 25,000 middle-class families. Here’s how the Senate bill would affect each of them.

OPEN Interactive Graphic

“The Joint Committee staff is currently involved in analyzing the macroeconomic effects of the bill, and is trying to complete the analysis for purposes of producing the estimate of the budget effects” in time to inform debate on the Senate floor, Thomas Barthold, chief of staff of the J.C.T. wrote in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the ranking Democrat on the finance committee.

Thus far, dynamic analyses of the Republican tax bills have failed to match the promises of the party’s lawmakers that the tax cuts would pay for themselves by creating a surge of economic growth and new revenues.

Mr. Barthold could make no guarantees that the analysis would be ready in time and he warned that it would not account for any last minute changes that are made to the bill.

“When we produce these estimates, we subject them to a number of quality checks before releasing them, and cannot guarantee a specific release time until we have completed that process,” he said.

It could be a long week

If the Budget Committee approves the bill, it will be up to Mr. McConnell to decide when to move toward a full Senate vote.

First, the Senate would hold a vote to begin debating the tax overhaul. This is a procedural step, and the vote could take place around midweek.

Under the special budget rules that Republicans are using to shield their bill from a Democratic filibuster, debate on the measure is limited to 20 hours. After that, senators will endure an exhausting ritual known as a vote-a-rama — essentially, a marathon of votes on amendments.

It remains to be seen how the bill could be amended while the full Senate considers it, and whether Republicans with concerns about the tax rewrite will be won over by changes that are made.

Eventually — perhaps late this week — the full Senate would vote on whether to approve the tax overhaul.

If the Senate succeeds, there’s more to do

The House approved its own tax rewrite, which differs in big ways from the Senate plan, on Nov. 16. If the Senate approves its own version, the two chambers will have to iron out the differences between the two plans.

But it is possible that changes could be made to the Senate bill this week with an eye toward winning over House Republicans. House members could then be asked to give their approval to the Senate plan so that the process could be sped up.

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