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- The Senate parliamentarian on Thursday ruled that Republicans’ “trigger” idea for their tax bill would not comply with Senate rules.
- Republicans are now scrambling to find alternatives to win over members concerned about the bill’s potential effect on the federal budget deficit.
- Earlier, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the bill would add roughly $1 trillion to the deficit over 10 years even with economic growth factored into the equation.
- The Senate was expected to vote on the tax bill late Thursday or early Friday.
Senate Republicans on Thursday furiously scrambled to rewrite parts of their massive tax legislation after the Senate rule keeper threw a last-minute wrench in their plan that helped delay a final vote on the bill.
Drama erupted on the chamber’s floor late Thursday afternoon when the Senate parliamentarian said a provision that was set to be included in the bill did not comply with Senate rules. The provision would have triggered a reversal of the legislation’s tax cuts if the bill did not generate economic growth and added too much to the federal deficit.
Earlier, the Joint Committee on Taxation, the official scorekeeper for Congress, released a report estimating that the Senate plan, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, would increase the deficit by roughly $1 trillion over 10 years – even when factoring in potential economic growth from the bill.
“It doesn’t look like the trigger is going to work, according to the parliamentarian,” Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Senate Republican, told reporters, according to Politico.
The parliamentarian is a sort of umpire for the Senate rules, especially for bills like the tax plan that go through budget reconciliation, the process with strict rules allowing the GOP to pass the bill with a simple majority vote.
The “trigger” was conceived by Republican Sens. Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, and James Lankford. The trio expressed concerned that the bill would not generate enough economic growth to make up for its projected revenue shortfall from massive tax cuts. The “trigger” would have automatically increased revenue (most likely by raising taxes in some way) to ensure the deficit did not balloon out of control.
Cornyn said that in lieu of a trigger, Republicans were rethinking cuts to the corporate tax rate to 20% from 35%.
Cornyn told reporters of a proposed “stair step” that would gradually increase that rate on an annual basis to make up revenue and ensure the deficit did not grow too large.
“So we have an alternative,” he said. “Frankly, a tax increase we don’t want to do to try to address Sen. Corker’s concerns.”
Other ideas are also being floated. Sen. John Hoeven told reporters that members were discussing an alternative minimum tax, essentially a less generous tax formula for large C-corporations and wealthy people.
Given the complexities of the rewrites, Senate GOP leaders delayed a final vote on the bill until Friday at the earliest. There had been some expectation that the vote would occur on Thursday night.