Senate Republicans look to move their tax bill as soon as this week over broad opposition from Democrats, who argue that the GOP's top legislative priority would be a giveaway to corporations and the rich.
The Senate Budget Committee will meet Tuesday to prepare the fiscal 2018 reconciliation bill that will carry the tax reform measure. Republicans are using the reconciliation process to move the tax cuts because reconciliation measures only need a simple majority to pass the Senate.
The GOP holds just 52 seats in the Senate, meaning that, if no Democrats support the bill, GOP leader Mitch McConnell can afford to lose just two Republican votes and still pass the bill with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaker.
Republicans argue that the bill will spur economic growth by slashing the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, expanding expensing provisions and encouraging companies to bring home earnings parked overseas.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., has already voiced opposition to the bill, citing concerns about how small businesses would be taxed in the Senate version.
But speaking on Fox News Sunday, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said there will be "plenty of opportunities to change the bill in a way a lot of our senators want to see" when the bill reaches the Senate floor.
"I think, in the end, we'll get the votes," Thune added.
President Trump gave a boost to the bill in his Thanksgiving tweets, saying that the country “is starting to do really well. Jobs coming back, highest Stock Market EVER, Military getting really strong, we will build the WALL, V.A. taking care of our Vets, great Supreme Court Justice, RECORD CUT IN REGS, lowest unemployment in 17 year … And it will get even better with Tax Cuts!”
But Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., used the congressional Democratic weekend message to press his party’s arguments against the bill.
“This bill helps the relatively small number of families that make over $1 million a year and adds to the burden of others. That alone should be enough for us to scrap this approach, but what’s even more stunning is that it does this while adding at least $1.5 trillion, and perhaps as much as $2.5 trillion, to our debt,” Bennet said.
“Our kids will bear that burden and the debt will restrict their future. America’s children don’t have a vote in the United States Senate. The generation after them doesn’t have a vote.”
Much of the Democratic criticism targets the fact that the Senate bill would sunset individual tax benefits to help reduce the measure's cost, while making the corporate tax cut permanent. The Senate bill also would repeal the individual health care mandate, which would save money by reducing federal insurance subsidies.
Both the Senate bill and a measure passed by the House before Thanksgiving would provide key expensing benefits for farmers but they differ sharply in the way they would treat partnerships and other pass-through businesses.
Lawmakers also face a looming deadline to enact an agreement to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. The continuing resolution that is funding the government expires Dec. 8 and congressional leaders have yet to even agree on the overall spending limits for defense and other domestic spending programs.
Democrats are demanding that spending limits be raised for both defense and domestic spending.
Also this week, biofuel producers and refiners are watching EPA for release of the biofuel usage mandates, renewable volume obligations (RVOs) for 2018, and, in the case of biodiesel, for 2019. The biofuel industry is expressing optimism that the numbers will be higher than EPA proposed in July.
Last week, in a victory for the biofuels industry, the EPA formally rejected a proposal by refiners to shift the compliance requirements from refiners to fuel blenders.
Additionally this week, 19 farmer members of the Organic Trade Association will be on Capitol Hill to talk about organic agriculture’s priorities in the next farm bill. An OTA survey earlier this year found that farmers' top policy priorities included “expanding public education about the benefits of organic and increasing funding for organic production research and improving transparency and tracking of international organic trade."
Here’s a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, Nov. 27
4 p.m. - USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, Nov. 28
Agricultural Retailers Association annual conference, through Thursday, Phoenix.
8:30 a.m. - House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, speaks on tax reform at the American Enterprise Institute, 1789 Massachusetts Ave. NW
10 a.m. - Senate Banking Committee hearing on the nomination of Jerome Powell to be chairman of the Federal Reserve, 216 Hart.
2:30 p.m. - Senate Budget Committee meeting to consider the fiscal 2018 reconciliation bill.
4:30 p.m. - Securing America’s Future Energy forum, “Oil’s Coming Decade of Disorder,” 918 F St. NW.
Wednesday, Nov. 29
10 a..m. - House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, “USDA's Role in Disaster Recovery,” 2362-A Rayburn.
10 a..m. - House Oversight and Government Reform hearing on regulatory reform at the Interior and Energy departments and EPA, 2154 Rayburn.
10 a.m. - House Interior-Environment Appropriations hearing on the Forest Service, 2007 Rayburn.
10 a.m. - House Natural Resources Committee hearing, "Modernizing NEPA for the 21st Century,” 1324 Longworth.
10 a.m. - House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee hearing, “The Future of WOTUS: Examining the Role of States,” 2318 Rayburn.
10 a.m. - Joint Economic Committee hearing with Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on the economic outlook, 1100 Longworth.
11 a.m. - House Energy-Water Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Army Corps of Engineers, 2362-B Rayburn.
11 a.m. - USDA's Economic Research Service updates 2017 farm income forecast.
Noon - Cato Institute forum, “Trump, Trade, and the Asia Pacific,” 2075 Rayburn.
Thursday, Nov. 30
8:30 a.m. - USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
9:30 a.m. - House Interior-Environment Appropriations hearing on the Interior Department, 2007 Rayburn.
Noon - Cato Institute forum, “Can Tax Cuts Spur Economic Growth?” with Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advises and other economists, 1000 Massachusetts Ave, NW.
12:45 p.m. - Resources for the Future forum, “New Realities for US Energy Security,” 1616 P St. NW.
Friday, Dec. 1
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