The giant Senate tax bill barely squeaked by a critical test

Mitch McConnell.

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Mitch McConnell.
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Drew Angerer/Getty Images

  • Senate Republicans released their version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Thursday.
  • The Joint Committee on Taxation found that the tax bill would add $1.4957 trillion to the national debt, coming in just under a $1.5 trillion limit specified in a Senate budget rule.

Senate Republicans on Thursday released their version of legislation to overhaul the federal tax code – and already the bill has scored a small but important win.

The Joint Committee on Taxation, the nonpartisan congressional research service, said the Senate’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would add $1.4957 trillion to the national debt from 2018 to 2027. The Senate’s budget allows for the bill to add only $1.5 trillion over that period to be considered under reconciliation rules.

This means the massive plan comes in about $4.3 billion under the limit.

While it’s likely that the bill was designed to fit inside the window, the test is critical for Republicans because it’s is moving through the Senate via budget reconciliation. Within the recently passed 2018 budget resolution, the Senate attached rules that allow it to pass one bill using the process.

Reconciliation allows a bill to pass with a simple majority vote – and in this case, bypass a Democratic filibuster. Since Republicans control 52 seats in the chamber, this means the bill could pass on a party-line vote.

But reconciliation rules also mandate that the bill can’t add debt outside the 10-year budget window. Already, there are reports that some Senate GOP aides have said the bill’s construction most likely doesn’t meet that provision.