The Republican tax reform bill was supposed to be unveiled today, but there is one little problem: It isn’t written yet. The House Ways and Means Committee was forced to delay the release of the bill until Thursday to allow the committee members another day to negotiate details of the proposed legislation.
“Ways and means committee members met tonight to discuss the work we are doing on pro-growth tax reform. In consultation with President Trump and our leadership team, we have decided to release the bill text on Thursday,” Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) announced in a statement detailed on CNN. “We are pleased with the progress we are making and we remain on schedule to take action and approve a bill at our Committee beginning next week.”
Republicans have few legislative victories to show for their control of Congress and the White House. Divisions within the party led to the defeat of several attempts to reform the Affordable Care Act, the party’s highest profile promise in the 2016 elections. Now it seems that intraparty squabbling may endanger prospects for tax reform as well.
There are indications that the GOP is struggling to deliver on the promises made in the ambitious tax framework revealed last September. Republicans promised to lower tax rates on individuals and corporations while closing loopholes. The framework also promised to double the standard deduction and expand the child tax credit.
There have reportedly been several points of disagreement among the GOP caucus. Treatment of the tax deduction for state income taxes has been a major point of contention. There is also disagree on whether the reform should be allowed to increase the deficit and whether the cuts should be permanent. Both points affect the ability of Republicans to use a budget reconciliation to pass the bill.
Tax cuts for the wealthy have also been controversial with President Trump promising that the bill will not be a boon to upper income taxpayers. The top 20 percent of taxpayers pay 95 percent of taxes per government data cited by Politico and cuts to these taxpayers would pack the largest benefit to the economy.
“The fact that they [low-income taxpayers] don’t pay very much in taxes means that it’s very hard to provide them with a large tax cut,” said Adam Looney, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. “It’s basically impossible to have a large tax cut that doesn’t involve most of the benefits going to high-income groups just because that’s who pays taxes now.”
After a string of legislative defeats over the summer, Republicans desperately need a victory on tax reform to bolster their base ahead of next year’s midterm elections. Prospects for the passage of tax reform are not good if the party can’t even get the bill written.