GOP recast House votes, celebrate holiday legislative win to reboot nation’s tax code; opponents cry foul

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 375 views 

After a parliamentary hitch on Tuesday caused the U.S. House of Representatives to reboot a winning vote on a $1.5 trillion tax cut package, Arkansas’ entire congressional delegation on Wednesday (Dec. 20) celebrated a key political milestone that GOP party leaders and rank-and-file members say will lift the U.S. economy to new heights.

First, GOP leaders in the U.S. Senate celebrated Tuesday’s late-night passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 by a vote of 51 to 48, not needing any Democrat votes or the presence of fellow Republican Sen. John McCain, who is recuperating at home in Arizona following cancer treatment.

Arkansas Republican Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton cheered the Senate vote, calling the first overhaul of the nation’s tax code since Ronald Reagan a major victory for all American working families.

“For too long, middle-class Arkansans have struggled in an economy that feels like it is stuck in neutral. Our outdated, inefficient and ineffective tax code has played a large role in preventing a full recovery from taking hold. Tax reform will change that,” Boozman noted.

Later in the day, the U.S. House again voted to approve a duplicate of the Senate bill and a House version that was approved 24 hours earlier. After Tuesday’s House vote, the Senate parliamentarian alerted Congressional leaders that there were three provisions in H.R. 1 that violated the quirky Senate budget rule, including the bill’s “Tax Cut and Jobs” title, a proposal that would allow people to use 529 college savings for homeschool expenses, and another measure that exempts colleges with less than 500 tuition-paying students from paying tax endowments.

GOP leaders in both chambers feared the Byrd rule could have been activated by a U.S. senator raising a point of order during consideration of a reconciliation bill or conference report. If the point of order is sustained, the offending title, provision or amendment is deemed stricken unless its proponent can muster two thirds, or 60 votes, to waive the rule.

But after Wednesday’s votes were recast, Republicans ended up with similar results as Tuesday’s floor gaffe, a 227-203 victory that drew no Democratic votes and 12 GOP defections. In Wednesday’s revote, all four of Arkansas’ Republican congressmen supported the massive tax cut for a second time, winning this time by a 224-201 margin.

“For the first time in over three decades, Congress has voted to fundamentally reform our tax code. This bill allows hardworking Americans to keep more of their paycheck, creates jobs and increases wages by making American businesses competitive again, and simplifies a code that has become riddled with loopholes,” said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers.

Added Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock: “The House has achieved a major victory by passing tax reform legislation to help hardworking Arkansas families can keep more of their hard-earned dollars, to bring jobs back home, and to create new jobs. Reforming our broken tax code is about providing better opportunities for our children and grandchildren to succeed and live out their dreams.”

According to details of the House Resolution I, the final bill permanently cuts the corporate income tax rate from 39% to 21%, effective at the beginning of 2018. It also provides for a 20% deduction for qualified business income of so-called pass-through businesses, such as sole proprietorships, subchapter S corporations and certain partnerships, beginning in 2018 and expiring after 2025.

Other benefits for the business sector include the elimination of the corporate alternative minimum tax (AMT) and a host of international business tax provisions that are aimed at encouraging U.S.-based companies to ramp up investment and hiring in the U.S.

On the other hand, according to analysis by Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation, middle-class taxpayers will get about $61 billion in tax cuts in 2019 under the bill. However, those same wage earners would see their individual taxes rise overall by the time the tax cut expires in 2027.

On the eve of the Republican lawmakers in Washington, D.C., gifting President Donald Trump with his first major legislative victory since entering the White House in January, several major political polls – including surveys by USA Today, CNN and Wall Street Journal/NBC – showed that most Americans oppose the massive tax cut and don’t think it will help the middle class.

According to a one-page summary of the tax cut package by the Treasury Department, however, the tax reform plan projects U.S. economic growth would increase by an average of 0.8% over the next 10 years and reduce the cost of the bill by $408 billion, based on robust projections for economic growth over the next decade.

“Adding this $408 billion to the static score leads to a change in total projected receipts under JCT’s assumptions of approximately $1 trillion (deficit) on a current law basis,” the Treasury Department stated. “OTP has modeled the revenue impact of higher growth effects, using the Administration projections of approximately a 2.9% real GDP growth rate over 10 years contained in the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget.”

But not everyone in Arkansas is pleased with the GOP tax cut plan. Paul Spencer, the Democratic Party candidate who is running against Rep. Hill in the 2nd Congressional District race in 2018, said the vote proved how obedient Hill and his Republican colleagues are to their campaign donors.

“This tax bill has been proven has a lie, a scam, and a fraud — not dissimilar from how the people of the Second District are being to see their representation,” said Spencer, “This bill rewards the rich elite and punishes the working class. This should come as no surprise, as Rep. Hill has devoted his entire tenure in the People’s House to serving the former, not the latter.”

Ahead of Tuesday’s House vote, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, speaking as the newly elected president of the National League of Cities, said the final bill falls short on its promise to protect American families and the cities and towns in which they live.

“Hundreds of local leaders have spoken loudly and clearly during this extremely condensed tax reform debate: Congress can’t pay for tax reform by stripping the tools that help build stronger, healthier and more economically-vibrant communities,” Stodola said.