WASHINGTON, D.C. – Now that the House has passed its version of a tax cut plan, focus returns to the Senate where often conservative reforms go to die. The gap between the Senate plan and the House plan is not insurmountable but significant.
The different flavors of tax reform from the two chambers may be a reflection of the leadership involved in shaping the process. The contrasts between North Carolina Congressman and Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, and ‘just another clump in the Swamp’ Sen. Thom Tillis represents the competing forces in the tax cut debate well as the House passes debate to the upper chamber.
Meadows was apparently caught off guard with just how much the Senate Swamp deviated from plans discussed among leading lawmakers and President Trump.
“It is interesting to me that the ‘Big Six’ worked for nine months on getting on the same sheet of music on tax reform, and [to] have it be this dynamically different as it is rolled out — it’s a bit of a surprise,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) told Vox of the group of top senators, House members, and Trump administration officials who brainstormed a framework for tax reform.
Meadows predicted eight Republican ‘No’ votes on the House version, later passing with 13 Republicans voting against.
He praised Ryan and House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady for their work on tax reform, saying. “Everybody gets an A for the 227 votes today.”
Rep. Walter Jones (NC-3) wasn’t among the 227, despite pressure from super PAC advertising in his district urging him to vote for the bill. Jones disagrees with the elimination of popular tax deductions, such as the one for medical expenses, and said he feared big tax cuts will increase the deficit.
“There are just so many things like that in the bill that bothers me greatly,” Jones said.
True tax reform is not possible with out streamlined deductions, and projected deficits from tax cuts usually have a way of turning into surprise collections increases as North Carolina tax reforms have proven for years now.
However, the government’s precious revenue is too much to risk for Establishment types in the Senate like Tillis that would rather delay corporate rate cuts than to work limited government and spending cuts that could enable tax relief.
Tillis said Congress needs to pass tax reform before Christmas, lest Republicans get thrown out in 2018. But to get there the Swamp is willing to settle for the not quite, the not yet, and the not at all, delaying and moderating tax relief in the name of Big Government.
Tillis said the Senate bill “builds upon a good outcome” from the House, but tempers any expectations for the bold reform called for by the likes of Sen. Rand Paul by suggesting the math is limiting.
“I think it’s more a matter of the math,” Tillis said, explaining the Senate decision to delay the corporate rate cut. “I’d prefer to do it sooner rather than later, but I think there are other proposed provisions that make me a little more conformable with it.”
Perhaps one day, politicians like Tillis will figure out that subtraction is a useful part of mathematics and employ the minus sign next to scores of wasteful government programs.
Until then the give and take between the House and Senate plans will continue, amidst the wider struggle between bigger and small government. If the final concoction turns out more Meadows than Tillis the American people will be better off.