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House Paves Way for Expedited Action on Tax Overhaul Next Year

In the final legislative sprint before the August recess, the House on Thursday advanced a bill that would set up a fast-track process (HR 2768) for a comprehensive overhaul of the tax code next year.

Lawmakers passed the Republican measure in a 232-189, mostly party-line vote. The bill would establish rules in the House and Senate for the expedited consideration of a tax overhaul measure expected to be introduced in the 113th Congress.

“We all agree that dramatic reform of our budget process is needed,” said the measure’s sponsor, David Dreier, R-Calif. “None of us looks at our skyrocketing deficit, anemic economic growth rate or persistent unemployment and thinks the status quo when it comes to the federal budget process is acceptable,” the Rules panel chairman said.

But Democrats said that nothing about the bill — which was exclusively referred to the Rules Committee — was the product of bipartisan agreement (HR 2783).

“This is a very, very partisan bill,” said Rules Committee member Jim McGovern, D-Mass. “I don’t recall the gentleman ever reaching out and asking my opinion on what a bill like this should be about. Perhaps my invitation to join the discussion was lost in the mail.”

McGovern said Dreier’s words of “bipartisan, consensus and compromise” to describe the legislation “do not apply to what we’re talking about here today.”

Dreier shot back that he wanted to congratulate McGovern on “his very thoughtful, warm, and loving mischaracterization of where we stand on this issue.” Dreier clarified that while the bill may not have been the product of bipartisanship, tax overhaul is a bipartisan goal.

Still, Ways and Means ranking Democrat Sander M. Levin of Michigan said the expedited process for a tax overhaul measure was a radical GOP proposal. “Under this bill, the pathway Republicans are setting up is really a railroad to shift the tax burden onto the middle class and shipping jobs overseas.”

Some Process, Some Policy

The measure would require any committee to which the tax overhaul measure is reported to advance the measure within 20 calendar days of its introduction. If the committee failed to report the tax bill within that period, the bill would be automatically discharged to the House floor.

“These procedures will help to ensure that no committee or member has the power to prevent or indefinitely delay consideration of comprehensive tax reform,” said Dreier.

The legislation also outlines what such a tax code overhaul bill would have to look like to receive the expedited process. The bill would need to consolidate the six current tax brackets into two brackets, one at 10 percent and the other at 25 percent. The bill would have to reduce the corporate tax rate to no greater than 25 percent, repeal the alternative minimum tax and broaden the tax base to maintain revenue between 18 and 19 percent of the economy.

If the tax overhaul bill meets those requirements, then 15 legislative days after it has been placed on the legislative calendar, the majority leader or a designee could move that the House consider the measure. And if motion is not offered by House leadership by the specified time, any member could call up the bill after an additional two days.

The legislation also would outline similar rules for Senate consideration next year, such as requiring the Senate Finance Committee to report the legislation within 15 days or it would automatically be discharged to the floor. It also would allow a senator to make a motion to proceed to the legislation shortly after it is approved by the committee, or more likely, discharged from committee consideration. The motion to proceed would not be debatable in the Senate, and could not be filibustered.

Before passing the bill, the House voted 176-246 to reject a substitute amendment offered by Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y., that would have outlined Democratic principles for a tax overhaul.

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