House passes tax reform measure: what lawmakers from Colorado are saying

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

DENVER – The U.S. House of Representatives voted 225-207 Thursday to pass a sweeping tax reform bill while the Senate GOP finalizes its version of the bill. If the chambers can come to a passing compromise, there would be sweeping effects on the nation’s economy and Americans’ tax brackets.

The GOP is trying to pass a full tax reform measure for the first time in 30 years and has deemed it imperative to their platform heading into 2018.

Though the bills have been undergoing changes this week and some were still being made in the Senate as of publication of this story, there are a few things we know about the bills:

House passes its version Thursday; Senate bill awaits

Colorado's Republican members of the House all voted in favor of the tax reform bill on Thursday, despite Rep. Ken Buck having reservations before the vote. Democrats all voted against the bill.

“I believe the tax reform legislation that passed today is the first step towards growing our economy and creating jobs," Buck told Denver7 after voting for the bill. "We must follow-up this historic legislation by reducing federal spending and removing regulatory burdens on small business.”

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said she was "proud to have voted against this gift to corporations and the ultra-wealthy."

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., praised the measures passage, saying it was "pro-growth tax reform" that simplifies the tax code. He also chastised Democrats upset over the deficit increase, which both parties have traded jabs about over the past several years.

"I'm amazed that the same loud voices that defended voting for $2.7 trillion in deficit spending to grow the size of government, in the just the first two years of the Obama administration, are now suddenly concerned about deficit spending when it comes to reducing the tax burdens on families and businesses in order to grow the economy," Coffman said.

Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., was also pleased by the bill's passage.

“This legislation will put our nation and Colorado back on track by providing much needed assistance to families and small businesses," he said in a statement. "I am especially optimistic as this legislation will bring an estimated 17,520 new jobs to my state and median income households in Colorado are estimated to see an average $3,105 increase in their income. Coloradans know best how to spend their hard earned paychecks and this legislation will allow them that opportunity.”

But Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., said, "The tax bill is just another example of how Republicans continue to stack the deck against hardworking Americans."

"Using voodoo economics, Republicans are trying to justify, at best, a $1.5 trillion increase to the national debt," Perlmutter continued. "That equals almost $5,000 for every man, woman and child in the United States. And history has shown us these tax cuts do not trickle down to benefit the folks in the middle."

Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., also came out against the bill Thursday evening, saying in a statement, "We cannot afford for the plan that Republicans pushed through today to become law. I stand ready to craft a bipartisan tax reform plan that shrinks the national debt and grows the economy.” 

The Senate is now expected to bring its own bill out of committee after the House passes its version. Should the Senate also pass its version, the two chambers would have to reconcile the differences—likely in a conference committee.

House and Senate bills have similarities, but also differ

Both the House and Senate bills cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent and loosen levies for some corporations and small businesses. Both bills would also increase projected federal deficits by around $1.5 trillion over the next decade as personal income tax brackets are restructured and some deductions are eliminated.

The Senate’s version has seven tax brackets, while the House bill has four.

Republicans say the new brackets will lead to tax reductions for all Americans, while Democrats say their opponents are being misleading and that middle-class Americans will see increases.

The Senate’s bill also sets the child tax credit at $2,000, while the House version sets it at $1,600. The credit is currently $1,000.

Senate bill repeals ACA individual mandate

The bill still in the Senate Finance Committee would repeal the requirement in the Affordable Care Act that people have insurance lest they pay a fine, called the individual mandate. Republicans argued over the mandate while trying to pass a repeal-and-replacement of the ACA earlier this year. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 13 million fewer people would be insured by 2027 if the mandate is repealed—mostly people who the CBO believes wouldn’t feel the need to buy insurance anymore with no threat of being penalized.

Repealing the mandate would save $338 billion over 10 years, according to the CBO, as Medicaid spending goes down. Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, wrote into the bill a doubling of the child tax credit with that money.

The CBO estimates that individual plans on the ACA would see premium increases of 10 percent, though employer coverage was not estimated to change much.

Nonpartisan congressional analysts say middle class gets tax hike

The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, which analyzes measures in Congress for their effects on the budget, issued a report Thursday saying that the Senate bill would raise taxes on families earning between $10,000 and $75,000 each year, yet would give big cuts to millionaires.

The report shows that starting in 2021, households near or below the poverty line earning between $10,000 and $30,000 would see tax increases. Families in the next bracket who are earning between $30,000 and $75,000 a year would see tax increases in the six years that followed, the JCT report found.

JCT says those estimated tax increases for the middle class would come from the repeal of the individual mandate, as those with lower incomes also see the highest amount in ACA credits and subsidies that help them pay less for insurance.

The JCT report shows a 0.5-percent increase for families earning under $30,000 and a cut of 1.5 percent for those earning more than $1 million each year.

The individual tax cuts are set to end in 2025 in the Senate bill in order to keep in line with reconciliation rules that don’t allow measures that raise the deficit beyond 10 years without 60 votes.

Senate Republicans argue bill would lead to job creation

Despite the numbers from JCT, Senate Republicans say their measure will benefit average-income Americans. The standard deduction is doubled, which would keep some income from being taxed.

Aides say the legislation doesn’t touch 401(k) investments, something that had originally been discussed, and keeps in place the adoption tax credit and mortgage interest deduction.

The Tax Foundation estimated more than 900,000 full-time jobs would be created under the Senate proposal.

A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday showed Americans disapproved of the plan by a 52-25% margin.

What Colorado’s congressional delegation is saying

Republicans and Democrats have been on opposite sides of the argument and haven’t come close to reaching a compromise. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., said Wednesday he wouldn’t vote for the Senate’s version as it was, while a panel of House Republicans from New York, New Jersey and California balked at the House’s version.

Senate Republicans can only lose one vote beyond Johnson’s if they want their measure to pass, while the House can’t lose many votes either.

Ahead of the House vote, Republicans and Democrats from Colorado traded partisan blows over the bill.

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., was still undecided on the matter Thursday morning, his spokesperson told Denver7, though indications from the rest of his Republican and Democratic colleagues in Colorado were that they were expected to vote along party lines.

Rep. Scott Tipton called the tax reform legislation “vital” and said it would “create jobs and bring much needed relief” to American families. Rep. Doug Lamborn said the House GOP plan would “save your family time and money.”

On the Democrat side, Rep. Ed Perlmutter said he’d heard from 100 people who opposed the plan and three who supported it over the last two weeks, and said the House bill would only benefit wealthy Americans and corporations. He and Rep. Diana DeGette have repeatedly called the plan a “scam.”

Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet remain similarly distanced in their faith in the Senate’s plan.

Gardner said Wednesday on the Senate floor that in America, “the haves have more and the have-nots have less,” and said the plan would grow the economy and “create opportunity” for Americans.

He said the Senate’s plan would lead to an average increase of after-tax income for Coloradans of more than $3,000.

“This fight is to grow wages across the state of Colorado,” Gardner told his Senate colleagues. “I hope all of us will be engaged in this fight.”

Bennet, however, has slammed the tax bill several times in recent days.

“We need comprehensive and bipartisan reform. But in a break with the tradition of this body, there has been no attempt to bring both sides together. The result is a deeply flawed proposal completely at odds with what our economy needs,” he said.

He says the bill is more beneficial to the wealthy than the middle class, and said it hurts children and makes health care cuts in order to pay for business tax cuts.

“We’re going to live in the house, but you have to pay the mortgage. That’s what we’re telling the next generation of Americans, and we’re saying nothing in this bill to the 22 percent of children living in poverty in the United States. We’re silent about that,” he said Wednesday.

“If my colleagues vote for the #GOPTaxPlan, they forfeit any right to claim that they are fiscal conservatives,” Bennet tweeted.

President Trump was at the Capitol Thursday morning urging his Republican colleagues that they had a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to pass the tax reform.

Content originally published by Denver 7 on November 16, 2017.
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