Republican Infighting Threatens to Derail Vote on Bipartisan Tax Bill

Republican Infighting Threatens to Derail Vote on Bipartisan Tax Bill

Michael Brochstein

The top Republican on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday morning told CNBC that he expects a floor vote this week on the $78 billion bipartisan tax deal to temporarily expand the Child Tax Credit and revive some business tax breaks. But House Speaker Mike Johnson wouldn’t commit to that timing at a news conference, and heated Republican infighting could threaten any plans to pass the bill quickly.

“It's up to the speaker and the leader whenever it comes to the floor,” Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith of Missouri told CNBC, adding, “I expect it will be this week. I expect it will be in the next couple days, and whenever we have the vote, you’re going to see a very large number of Republicans and Democrats that will be voting for this pro-family, pro-worker, pro-business, pro-growth tax policy.”

Smith negotiated the deal with Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, and the package was passed out of the Ways and Means Committee by an overwhelming 40-3 vote. But while the bill has substantial support, Johnson has also been hearing complaints about the bill from a range of Republicans, including “incumbents in vulnerable districts demanding state and local tax relief and conservative Freedom Caucus members who are intent on bringing border politics into the tax debate,” as Politico’s Benjamin Guggenheim reports.

Blue state moderates have been pressing to boost the deductibility of state and local taxes (SALT), which was capped under the 2017 Republican tax law. A group of four New York Republicans on Tuesday threatened to derail a procedural vote on unrelated legislation, a protest tactic employed by conservatives in recent months to make known their displeasure with leadership. The moderates eventually backed off their threat and allowed the procedural vote to pass, claiming they had secured an agreement to continue discussions about the SALT deduction.

“For all of us in these districts, you know, that delivered the majority, this is the issue that matters, and we’re going to keep fighting to get it done,” Rep. Mike Lawler of New York said.

Conservatives, meanwhile, are against the expansion of the Child Tax Credit, which they deride as growing the “welfare state,” and are especially opposed to allowing parents who do not have Social Security numbers to claim the credit. And some GOP lawmakers are reportedly angry that the speaker is prepared to bring up the tax deal under a suspension of the rules and rely on Democratic support to pass it via a process that requires a two-thirds majority.

The bottom line: The outlook for the bill and timing of any vote remain unclear as Republicans try to hash out their differences and discuss changes. “We're having conversations about some of their concerns, some of our concerns and seeing if we can get a little kumbaya,” Rep. Chip Roy, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, told reporters. What is clear: Talk of passing the deal by the start of tax season — yesterday — was unrealistic given the policies in play and the bitter divisions among lawmakers.