Denver Post: As U.S. House tax reform vote nears, Colorado's Ken Buck could be the rare Republican voice of caution

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Washington, D.C.-, November 16, 2017 | comments

Nov. 16--WASHINGTON -- Among the Republicans in Colorado's congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Ken Buck is the one most likely to oppose a far-reaching tax plan that's scheduled for a vote Thursday in the U.S. House.

The two-term lawmaker from Windsor was one of just 20 Republicans to oppose a related budget bill that passed the House last month, and Buck said he might vote against the tax measure for a similar reason -- its impact on the national debt and deficit.

"The problem I have with this tax reform is (that) America needs to reduce spending when it reduces revenue," said Buck, who remained on the fence late Wednesday afternoon. "We can't increase spending at the same time we reduce revenue or we blow a hole in the budget."

Scorekeepers at the Joint Committee on Taxation, a nonpartisan congressional panel, have estimated the Republican-authored tax bill would add more than $1.4 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years.

That's due to a slate of tax cuts prescribed by the bill -- from a decrease in the corporate tax rate to the eventual elimination of levies on large inheritances.

Supporters of the bill, including Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, have argued the projected loss in revenue eventually would be offset by economic gains spurred by the tax cuts.

"Adding to the deficit is always a concern. I don't like doing that," Lamborn said. But "with higher growth in the economy, at some point in time -- I don't know how quickly -- the growth that wouldn't have otherwise happened will more than make up for the lost tax revenues."

Economists are less sure. Several preliminary forecasts of the House bill have estimated that the revenues would not be fully recouped by future economic growth.

One of those, done by the Tax Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, expected the federal government still would lose about $1 trillion in revenue over the next decade even after potential economic gains were taken into account.

Buck said a loss in future revenue is even more worrisome when juxtaposed with Congress' intent to increase defense spending and its obligation to cover the rising cost of programs such as Social Security or Medicare.

"With all of those things, we are going to reduce revenue," said Buck of the tax plan. "It makes absolutely no sense, and it's irresponsible. So that's what I'm struggling with."

Buck added that he supported the general idea of tax reform, including a reduction in corporate taxes and a simplification of the tax code.

If Buck ultimately decides to oppose the bill, he'll almost certainly be joined by Colorado's three House Democrats: U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis.

Perlmutter called it a "terrible bill" and said it was evidence that Republicans only "talk a big game" about fiscal responsibility.

"They have no qualms about exploding the debt," Perlmutter said.

Despite the opposition, House Republican leaders have been bullish this week about the bill's passage.

Lamborn said he was a "solid yes" and Colorado's two remaining House Republicans, Mike Coffman and Scott Tipton, were upbeat about the bill ahead of Thursday's vote.

If the House approves the bill, the next step would be passage in the Senate.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has targeted a vote for some time after Thanksgiving but the Senate plan faces its own set of hurdles, notably the recent inclusion of a controversial provision -- not included in the House plan -- that would undo a plank of the Affordable Care Act by nixing a fine on taxpayers who don't buy health insurance.

Content originally published by the Denver Post on November 16, 2017.
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