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Tax Reform Clues Lie in Politics of House Health Bill

Bloomberg BNA

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The momentum toward a tax reform bill this summer could hinge on how successfully House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) is able to corral his caucus to support a health care bill.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) has repeatedly said that bills reforming the tax code and replacing the Affordable Care Act can move on parallel tracks. But the fight unfolding this week over the health care bill—despite its backing by President Donald Trump—could greatly influence how the tax reform blueprint shapes up in the weeks to come, current and former tax staffers said.

If the House passes the health care bill, “it will serve as a template for how you get big things done,” said Rohit Kumar, a former top tax aide for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “It will also show the presidential team and congressional leadership what they can achieve when they work together. If it fails, it is the opposite lesson.”

If the House passes the health care bill, it will show what they can achieve working together. 

House leadership has been trying to shore up support for the tax blueprint with mixed results. The Republican Study Committee and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) have been holding briefings for “rank and file” members to address their concerns now. William Hoagland, a senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said there was no one who was claiming “paternity or maternity” of the tax code. “That allows for more flexibility,” he said. But the real test of Ryan on the health care measure might come in a conference committee after the Senate makes changes to the bill, Hoagland said.

Still, other items such as a looming deadline for a continuing resolution and raising the debt limit will take up time and political capital, Hoagland said. “I’m a pessimist on a tax reform bill passing this year,” he said.

KEYWORDS: 115TH CONGRESS, AFFORDABLE CARE ACT, BILL HOAGLAND, HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE, KEVIN BRADY, MITCH MCCONNELL, PAUL RYAN, PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, TAX REFORM