Popular tax cuts are only temporary
WASHINGTON House Republicans are approaching their next attempt at tax cuts the same way they did last year by excluding Democrats from the process. But this time a party-line vote won't be enough, and that may be the point.
GOP leaders aren't planning on using the procedural trick they deployed in 2017 that allowed them to bypass Democratic opposition and pass the tax overhaul bill with a simple majority. So they'll need at least nine Senate Democrats to back a so-called phase two of tax changes that would focus on making the individual tax cuts permanent.
So far, Democrats have been excluded from talks about what a second round of tax legislation would entail, according to a Republican lawmaker on the House's tax-writing committee. GOP leaders are also considering timing a floor vote to April 17, when income tax returns are due, said two Republican members of the committee, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.
Those moves show the effort is shaping up to be a political ploy to bludgeon Democrats ahead of congressional elections in November. Unlike last year, Republicans need buy-in from some Democrats because the effort would be subject to the 60-vote threshold in the Senate, where the GOP has 51 members.
President Donald Trump mentioned a potential phase two in February since then, incoming White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow and congressional GOP leaders have added momentum to the effort and highlighted the importance of giving permanent relief to individual taxpayers.
"We're in political season at this point," said Tom Davis, a former Republican congressman who used to run the party's House election arm. "To taxpayers that are now starting to receive the benefits of the tax cut, they'll know where Republicans stand on a tax cut that Democrats oppose."
Democrats have assailed the new law as a giveaway to corporations and the wealthy, and they've called for drastic changes.
"I'm ready to have a discussion with them. They want to fix some problems in the tax law? I want to fix some problems in the tax law," said Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat. Murphy said one of his demands was reducing the deficit effect of the bill.
Making the individual cuts permanent is estimated to cost $1.5 trillion in the decade after 2025, according to a Tax Foundation analysis using numbers from the Joint Committee on Taxation. Republicans had to sunset the individual changes to conform to the budget they set under Senate rules.