Robert Donachie – Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter on 10/19/2017
Senators came to an agreement late Thursday evening on a budget measure that will allow Republicans to continue pushing for a comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. tax code without fear of Democratic opposition derailing their efforts.
The Senate passed its 2018 fiscal year budget in a contentious 51-49 vote.
The $4 trillion budget proposal includes Senate budget reconciliation rules, which allow leadership to pass legislation with a simple majority, bypassing filibusters from Democrats altogether. Under the new budget, Republicans now only need 50 yes votes to shepherd tax reform through the Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence acting as the tiebreaker. The party holds a slim 52-48 majority in the Senate.
The proposed budget would also allow Senate Republicans’ tax reform bill to add to the federal deficit over the next decade, as long as it does not exceed $1.5 trillion.
While Thursday night’s victory was a much-needed win for Senate leadership, their plan still needs to be reconciled with the House measure past in early October. If the House does not accept the Senate’s proposal, it may upend their plans to bypass regular order.
The House budget notably calls for tax cuts that do not add to the federal deficit, which the Senate’s bill is likely to do. House lawmakers’ version couples the tax reforms with $200 billion in spending cuts over the 10-year horizon.
Republican senators have yet to pass major legislation in 2017, failing to repeal and replace Obamacare roughly a handful of times in President Donald Trump’s first nine months in office. The Senate used reconciliation rules for each of those repeal attempts, but were still unable to get to 50 yes votes.
A number of Republicans senators have said that they believe tax reform is a completely different animal than health care, and that it has a greater chance of getting through the legislative body.
House lawmakers could very well approve the Senate’s budget measure as early as next week, which would formally kick off Republican’s tax reform campaign in Congress. A vote on the final budget proposal is expected by the end of October.
The Senate Finance Committee is expected to submit a tax proposal by Nov. 13.
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