Key week for US tax bill

The House of Representatives’ tax-writing committee has begun debate on the Republicans’ proposed overhaul, kicking off four frantic days for lobbyists and lawmakers to revise a bill that represents President Donald Trump’s final hope for a signature legislative achievement this year.

It could prove to be a make-or-break week. The head of the tax-writing panel, Kevin Brady, has signalled he intends to allow revisions during his committee’s meetings this week — but not when the bill is on the full House floor. That means other House members will have to settle for a take-it-or-leave-it vote — perhaps as soon as next week.

Lobbyists and lawmakers are going to want to make their preferred changes, but “people are dreaming — it’s awfully hard to get those tweaks in there,” said John Feehery, a Republican lobbyist and former House leadership aide.

White House legislative affairs director Marc Short downplayed concerns a vote would be rushed through, saying in an interview that “it’s not really four days” but rather several weeks, because the legislation also must clear the Senate and a conference process.

Democrats will get “every opportunity” to weigh in in the Senate, where amendments can be considered on the floor as well as in the committee progress, he said. Mr Short acknowledged that Republicans have a “very narrow” margin for passage in the Senate but said, “We’re confident we’ll get it done.” Other points of contention include plans to cut the cap on the mortgage-interest deduction to $500,000 and to create tough rules for which partnerships, limited liability companies and other so-called pass-through businesses would qualify for a major rate cut.

Another potential obstacle for the tax bill arose as investigative reports surfaced alleging offshore tax-avoidance by US multinational companies along with offshore holdings by members of the Trump administration.

Congressional Democrats and tax-advocacy groups said the findings meant House Republicans should slow down their efforts. Mr Brady responded by saying lawmakers “have a pretty good handle” on how to address the erosion to the US tax base that results when corporations shift profits offshore and would stick with their timetable.

Powerful lobbying groups that represent small businesses, real estate and charitable organisations have already said they’re opposed to the House bill.

Bloomberg


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