House Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black is pushing for Republican lawmakers to get behind the 2018 budget, which includes reconciliation instructions for tax reform.
With Senate Republicans fumbling health-care reform and President Donald Trump opting to side with Democratic leaders on a three-month debt ceiling increase, much to the dismay of GOP lawmakers, Black argues Republicans need a legislative victory. She claims members have the opportunity to pass a bill with $203 billion in mandatory savings and reforms and get the ball moving on overhauling the tax code.
“I think a lot of members what they are realizing after this week is that Trump just showed everybody that if we don’t get things done then he’ll go work with the Democrats to get things done because he doesn’t care what he gets done,” a GOP aide told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “He just wants to check a box and say he accomplished something.”
While the whip count conducted last week is close, leadership appears to be short the handful of votes needed to pass the budget, with members of the House Freedom Caucus looking for details on tax reform and a number of moderates taking issue with spending cuts on certain programs.
“The case Diane is making is basically don’t stop the budget process in its tracks because you don’t exactly know what tax reform is going to look like. Let’s move ahead with this process, and we can work,” the source said. “You know you can lobby and you can threaten to vote against tax reform if it comes to that.”
One source said they fear if they don’t move forward with the bill soon, they are “setting up a situation where Nancy Pelosi is going to write the budget and she’s going to write the tax reform bill and Trump is going to go along with whatever tax-reform, tax-cut bill that Senate Democrats can get out of the Senate.”
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows argued his members don’t feel comfortable voting on legislation without having specifics on how Republicans plan to overhaul the tax code, noting they have been requesting details from leadership for months.
“If they can outline a whole lot more on what they’re doing on tax reform this week, then it certainly makes it a whole lot easier to support the budget right now, he told TheDCNF Monday. “Just voting for a budget where the numbers are pretty much meaningless without tax reform and without the reconciliation instructions attached to them, I don’t see a whole lot to be gained in doing that.”
“My position with Chairman Black really hasn’t changed, it’s been consistent for several weeks,” he continued. “And the one holdup is the lack of action and specificity on tax reform. So hopefully we’ll get those very soon.”
GOP Rep. Dave Brat of Virginia, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, said conservatives are “dying to vote for it [the budget].” But he isn’t confident Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is serious about accomplishing tax reform this year or using the reconciliation process — which allows the upper chamber to pass the measure with just a simple majority — to ensure the legislation meets the conservative goals Republicans laid out on the campaign trail.
“Everything points to the fact that they haven’t put out tax details, yet they promised us six months ago,” he told TheDCNF.
Following a meeting in McConnell’s office Monday, Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune told reporters that tax reform in 2017 is still the plan, adding he believes they will use reconciliation to pass the bill.
“There’s a lot that’s already happened — you know, you have the Finance Committee, we’ve had hearings this week. We’ve got a ton of work that’s been going into this — numerous meetings, staff’s been working, drafting getting scores that sort of thing,” he said. “So it’s kind of teed up, but there’s a lot of moving parts of this.”
The South Dakota Republican said he’s not making any predictions on whether tax reform will happen before the end of the year as there are still big decisions that need to be made. However, he is hopeful they can stick to their timeline and even get some Democrats on board.
“There may be some Democrats who are available to vote for something that we can get, but I don’t think there were enough to get us to 60,” he said. “And I think they would deliver just enough for us not to get to 60.”
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