Senate, House will now hash out GOP tax reform differences in conference committee

Senate, House will now hash out GOP tax reform differences in conference committee
Posted at 5:22 PM, Dec 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-05 01:59:33-05

DENVER – After Senate Republicans passed their version of the tax reform bill in the early hours of Saturday morning—just hours after the bill was released—members of Congress will now work to settle major differences between the versions passed by the Senate and House.

Both versions cut more than $1.4 trillion in taxes while adding billions to the federal deficit, but exactly how those cuts are made differ between the two bills.

Since the Senate passed its version 51-49, the senators who pushed the bill over the edge toward passage will have to support the changes that will likely be made in a conference committee between the House and Senate. Maine Sen. Susan Collins, for instance, supported the bill after she was promised it wouldn’t cut Medicaid. If that changes, she said, she might pull her support. Any Democrats seated to the conference aren't expected to have much sway.

The House was voting Monday to send the bill to conference committee, though some ultra-conservative Republicans on the House Freedom Caucus were voting against going to committee over concerns about having leverage over the continuing resolution vote planned for later this week to keep the government running.

After some drama, Freedom Caucus members supported the move to go to conference committee, clearing one possible hurdle.

The Senate and House bills contain different tax brackets, though the House’s bill makes the changes permanent while the Senate’s expire in 2026.

The home mortgage interest deduction written into the two bills differ as well: The House version allows people to deduct interest from the first $500,000 of a new home loan, while the Senate’s allows for a $1 million max deduction.

Also differing between the two bills are changes to the alternative minimum tax (AMT), which helps to ensure higher earners pay taxes each year. The House’s measure repeals the AMT on the individual and corporate sides, while the Senate bill keeps the corporate version intact while trimming the individual AMT. The House majority leader said Monday the Senate’s bill had problems regarding the AMT.

There are also differences regarding changes to the estate tax written into the two bills, and “pass-through” language for business owners, which was a last-minute focus in the Senate.

And one of the biggest differences regards the individual health mandate written into the Affordable Care Act, which the House version keeps intact but which the Senate version repeals entirely.

Repealing the mandate would raise hundreds of billions in revenue, according to the JCT and CBO, but would also leave millions without insurance who chose not to be covered if they don’t have to pay a fine. The revenue would come from tax credits not paid out to those people.

Colorado reacts to Senate’s tax reform passage

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., called the tax reform passage in the Senate “historic” and said “Coloradans will keep more of their own money in their own pockets, and the American people will be able to invest their savings the way they want to, not how Washington dictates.”

In his statement that followed the vote, Gardner was most pleased with the cutting of the corporate tax rate, which he said “will lead to bigger paychecks for hardworking Coloradans.”

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., meanwhile slammed the last-minute Republican process in passing the measure.

“When I came to Washington nine years ago, I would have never believed that something this cynical could happen on the floor of the U.S. Senate,” Bennet said. “The Senate passed a tax bill that has been sold to the American people with falsehood after falsehood. Republicans claim this is for the middle class. It is not.”

“It is the sons and daughters of Colorado’s teachers, firefighters, and police officers who will have to pay back that bill. And for what?” Bennet added. “To end poverty in America? No. To invest in infrastructure or health care? No. To strengthen our safety net? No. But to fritter it away on tax cuts for the wealthiest people in America.”

When the House passed its version of the tax reform bill last month, all of Colorado’s Republicans supported the measure, while all of its Democrats voted against the bill.

But Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., was swayed by a phone call from President Trump on the morning of the vote, and a new poll out Monday showed some voters in Republican Rep. Mike Coffman’s district were displeased with his vote in favor of the measure.

The Public Policy Polling survey, which was commissioned by left-leaning group Not One Penny, found 57 percent of district voters opposed the House-passed plan, and only 41 percent were supportive of it. The poll also found that 53 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to vote for Coffman because of his support for the measure.

Tyler Sandberg, a spokesman for Coffman’s campaign, brushed off the poll, however. “Just as moral victories don’t make majorities, generic Dems aren’t actual candidates,” he wrote on Twitter, in reference to the poll's finding that Coffman trailed a hypothetical generic Democrat by 8 percentage points, but led Democratic candidate Jason Crow by 7 points. Sandberg noted that PPP also predicted in 2013 that Coffman would lose by 10 percentage points, but that he ended up winning by nine.

Republican leaders have said they hope to settle the differences between the House and Senate versions and have the final measure to President Trump by Christmas.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.