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Hatch Promises Open Process for Senate Tax Bill

Utah senator says all Finance panel Republicans will be involved

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch pledged Tuesday that a Senate tax bill would not be crafted behind closed doors, as he laid out a game plan and roles for committee Republicans.

As party leaders put off action on a Senate GOP health care plan that bypassed committees of jurisdiction, the longtime Utah lawmaker said he was “working to involve all the Republican members” of his panel in developing a tax overhaul. He stopped short of providing a timeline for hearings or a markup, but said he would assign GOP senators to work on specific issues.

“I want to take a few minutes to rebut the growing narrative in the media and elsewhere that tax reform is going to be a secretive exercise, involving the input of only a few key players,” Hatch said Tuesday on the Senate floor.

He referred to ongoing high-level talks aimed at developing a unified GOP tax plan backed by both chambers and the Trump administration. Participants include House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and Hatch.

“While this process may result in an agreed-upon framework, this will not be the be-all, end-all of tax reform. On the contrary, as chairman of the Senate’s tax-writing committee, I am committed to ensuring a robust process in the Senate for developing, considering and passing any tax reform package,” Hatch said.

Many senators complained about the process for the Senate’s draft health care bill, which began with discussions among 13 senators in a working group and was written largely behind closed doors. The measure, which is now likely to get a vote after the July Fourth recess, did not go through markups in the Finance or Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees. 

Hatch said GOP Sens. Michael B. Enzi of Utah and Rob Portman of Ohio would focus on potential changes in international taxes, and Sen. John Thune of South Dakota would take care of business taxes and the estate tax. Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana are charged with working on energy tax issues, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa is focused on individual taxes and Pat Roberts of Kansas is tasked with agricultural tax issues.

Hatch also said he invited Finance Democrats to participate in developing tax legislation, but the chairman noted: “Recently, however, we have not been hearing much from our Democratic colleagues and friends when it comes to tax reform.”

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