- The Senate Parliamentarian ruled that the GOP’s “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 its potential effect on the deficit.
- The Senate is 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.
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 under Senate rules. The provision would have triggered a reversal of the tax cuts included in the legislation if the bill did not generate economic growth and added too much to the federal deficit.
The parliamentarian is a sort of umpire for the Senate rules, especially for bills like the tax plan that are going through the budget reconciliation process. That process allows the GOP to pass the bill with a simple majority vote, but it also means that all parts of the bill must abide by strict rules.
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 (likely by raising taxes in some way) to make sure the deficit did not balloon out of control.
Sen. John Cornyn, the second-highest ranking GOP member, said that in lieu of a trigger, Republicans were considering a “stair step” for the corporate tax rate. Currently, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) would slash the corporate rate to 20% from 35%.
Cornyn told reporters that the “stair step” would gradually increase that rate on an annual basis to make up revenue and ensure the deficit did not grow too large.
“It doesn’t look like the trigger is going to work, according to the parliamentarian,” Cornyn told reporters, according to Politico. “So we have an alternative, 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 are discussing an alternative minimum tax, essentially an alternate formula for taxes that is less generous, for large C-corporations and rich individuals.
A final vote on the tax bill is expected late Thursday night or Friday.
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