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Ryan Threatens to Keep Members in for Christmas to Finish Tax Overhaul

‘I don’t care. We have to get this done,’ speaker says

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said he will keep members in session over Christmas if needed to complete a tax overhaul. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said he will keep members in session over Christmas if needed to complete a tax overhaul. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Nothing seems to push lawmakers to get their jobs done and pass legislation more than the threat of having to be in Washington over the holidays. 

Knowing this, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan made it clear Thursday that Congress staying in session over Christmas is an option if they have not advanced a tax overhaul bill by then. 

“We’re going to keep people here for Christmas if we have to,” the Wisconsin Republican said at a Heritage Foundation event in Washington. “I don’t care. We have to get this done.”

However, that won’t be necessary if all goes according to plan. 

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The goal is for the Senate to pass a budget resolution next week and go to conference with the House to quickly resolve the differences between their budgets. Once both chambers have adopted a reconciled budget with a common reconciliation instructions for the tax overhaul, the House Ways and Means Committee will release the tax legislation and go to markup. 

The House will then take up the measure on the floor with the goal of getting it passed and over to the Senate in November, Ryan said. 

“We are actually on track timeline-wise,” he said. 

If the House does get a bill to the Senate in November, the timing would then be out of Ryan’s control until the other side acts. But the Christmas threat is not an empty one as the two chambers are expected to pass different bills and a conference committee will likely be needed to close the gaps. 

Ryan will want to keep his members in session until a conference committee report on the tax bill is passed. 

The speaker also had a warning for members and anyone else who stands in the way of advancing the tax bill: “If we squander this opportunity, it’s not going to come back.”

The last time Congress overhauled the tax code was 1986, and Ryan and many members believe that if lawmakers don’t pass a new overhaul this year while they’ve got GOP control of the legislative and executive branches, the trend of inaction will continue. 

Republicans are already running into some issues with their plan, such as growing opposition to a proposal to repeal the state and local tax deduction.

While some members are floating proposals on how to keep the tax break, albeit in a more limited form, Ryan has signaled that he wants to see it go.

“These are the issues that we have to help members see the bigger picture,” Ryan said Thursday when asked about the deduction. 

Taxpayers from all states will better off because of proposals to double the standard deduction, increase the child tax credit and eliminate the marriage penalty, he said. 

While there may be some “narrow thing” members don’t like in the GOP plan, the broader view about the overall benefit is prevailing, Ryan said.

“That’s why I feel so good about where we are in the House — and the Senate,” he said. 

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