House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady on Wednesday kicked off a gathering of House and Senate tax negotiators by telling fellow lawmakers they’re on the brink of “transformational” tax reform for the first time in three decades.
“We rejected simply tweaking a few provisions of Washington’s monstrous tax code and just calling it a day. Instead, we put it all on the table and went bold for the American people.” Mr. Brady said.
“All of our work has brought us to this moment, and we have more important work ahead of us to finalize the bill,” said Mr. Brady, Texas Republican. “Let’s not waver now — let’s not give in to the Washington status quo — not when tax reform is so close.”
Mr. Brady, who is chairing the conference committee tasked with hammering out differences between the $1.4 trillion tax-cut plans passed by the House and Senate, spoke shortly after Republican lawmakers said they had struck a tentative deal on the final terms of the package.
Lawmakers indicated Wednesday that the process was still fluid, but were eyeing a corporate tax rate of 21 percent — down from 35 percent — and a top individual rate of 37 percent.
President Trump said Wednesday he would be “thrilled” with a 21 percent corporate rate, after he had earlier pushed for 15 percent before the House- and Senate-passed plans settled on 20 percent.
The 37 percent top individual rate would be lower than what’s in the Senate-passed plan, which set it at 38.5 percent. It’s also lower than what’s included in the House-passed plan, which preserved the current top rate of 39.6 percent.
Republicans say they want to pass the final package early next week, before they have to deal with other end-of-year legislation.
Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing for Republicans to delay the proceedings until Democrat Doug Jones can be seated as the next U.S. senator from Alabama after his shocking win on Tuesday over Republican Roy Moore.
When Mr. Jones is seated, the GOP’s already-slim 52-48 Senate majority will be narrowed to 51-49, giving them even less margin for error on key legislation.
Democrats also described the bipartisan, bicameral conference committee as a “sham,” since Republicans have already struck an apparent agreement among themselves on a final package likely to attract few, if any, Democratic votes in either the House or Senate.
“This is legislation written for wealthy campaign contributors,” said Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent and ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee.
“And I want to congratulate some of my Republican colleagues for being honest about that,” Mr. Sanders said. “What they said publicly is [if] they don’t pass this bill, their wealthy friends will stop contributing. I appreciate that honesty.”