Tax bill conference committee pushes against deadline

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Republicans have two weeks to meet their Christmas deadline for passing a final tax bill and are still sorting through issues as they get set to hammer out final details.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Sunday that he is aiming for a vote next week, after a bicameral conference committee continues its work to reconcile the $1.4 trillion tax cut plans passed by the House and Senate.

“The House and Senate have two different bills — structurally they’re pretty similar,” Mr. McCarthy, California Republican, said on Fox News.

“They’re going to work out those differences — hopefully they can get that done this week. We come back the next week and vote on it,” he said.

“I feel very confident we’re going to get this done,” Mr. McCarthy said.

Both plans slash the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, trim rates for individuals and weed out various exemptions and deductions.

But as Mr. McCarthy indicated, there are a number of differences. For example, the Senate-passed bill includes a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate, and the House’s does not.

Both plans restore a deduction of up to $10,000 for local property taxes that had been on the chopping block, but negotiators are now looking at going even further to potentially allow taxpayers a choice between applying the money to their property taxes or to their income taxes.

“Allowing for income and property taxes, which would cost another $100 billion, by the way, to be options for folks in those states would be a better solution,” Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Mr. Scott, one of eight Senate Republicans negotiating the final bill, said he hopes conferees don’t have to bring the corporate tax rate up from 20 percent and that tweaking the deduction for mortgage interest paid could be a compromise.

The Senate passed its bill this month on a narrow 51-49 vote, with Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee the lone Republican to oppose it, citing concerns with the bill’s effect on federal deficits and the debt.

But Sen. Susan M. Collins, Maine Republican, said Sunday that she will withhold a decision on whether to vote for the final bill until the conference committee produces it.

“There are major differences between the House and Senate bills, and I don’t know where the bill is going to come out,” Ms. Collins said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Ms. Collins has said her support is likely contingent on an agreement that the legislation wouldn’t trigger automatic cuts to Medicare, as well as on pledges to vote on other measures to fund Obamacare cost-sharing subsidies and deal with high-risk insurance pools for people with pre-existing conditions.

She said she has commitments from Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that the Medicare cuts would not go into effect.

Ms. Collins also said she has had conversations with senators, House members and President Trump and has no reason to believe commitments on health care would not be kept.

Mr. Trump has been spurring on fellow Republicans as they look ahead to the midterm elections next year. They are desperate to pass major legislation they can sell to voters after a year of efforts to repeal Obamacare stalled out.

“Getting closer and closer on the Tax Cut Bill. Shaping up even better than projected. House and Senate working very hard and smart. End result will be not only important, but SPECIAL!” the president tweeted Sunday.

Democrats, meanwhile, have cast the plan as a giveaway to the rich and say Republicans are trying to rush the process before the American people can figure out what’s in the legislation.

“This is not a tax bill designed to help the American people. It is a tax bill designed to help the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations. And I’m going to do everything I can to see that it is defeated,” Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent and another Senate conferee on the bill, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”