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Senate Democrats seek to maneuver tax deal to the floor

Without a bipartisan agreement, backers look for 60 votes to move the House bill

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., right, shown with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said he is part of an effort to determine whether there is enough Senate support for the tax break bill.
Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., right, shown with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said he is part of an effort to determine whether there is enough Senate support for the tax break bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Some Senate Democrats are pushing to bring a popular House-passed $79 billion tax package to the floor without changes, as tax filing season draws short with little sign of a deal with Senate Republicans.

Bringing the bill to the floor without a bipartisan agreement to limit debate would be a lengthy process, but could be feasible if Democrats are able to muster at least 60 votes in favor of the package. Another option would be to attach it to a bigger, must-pass vehicle, but that too would come with procedural pitfalls.

Senate Finance member Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., said he’s part of an effort to suss out whether there’s adequate support for the family and business tax break bill.

“There’s a lot of interest to try to put up the House-passed bill as is. And I support that,” Cardin said Thursday. “I’m part of an effort to try to see whether we can get 60 votes to move the House bill as-is because — I have so many tax issues I want to see passed, and I would love to have an opportunity to do that — but if this bill gets opened up, we’re not going to get a tax bill.”

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., another Finance member, said he’d also like to see the measure come to the floor.

“The more I hear constituents talking about it, the more I hear them say we should pass it,” he said. “I think it should go on the floor.”

The bill, which sailed through the House on a 357-70 vote in January, has languished in the Senate as Republicans led by Senate Finance ranking member Michael D. Crapo of Idaho have pushed for changes. Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said he and Crapo are continuing to talk.

The bill would revive a trio of business tax deductions and expand the child tax credit, along with smaller provisions on housing, disaster relief and tax benefits for U.S. companies operating in Taiwan. Its price tag would be offset by ending the processing of the fraud-ridden, pandemic-era employee retention tax credit filings early.

Wyden has been adamant he wants the bill passed before tax filing season ends April 15. The Senate is scheduled for a two-week recess starting March 25 and slated to return to the Capitol April 8.

When asked whether the bill should come to the floor, Wyden said that decision would fall to Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.

“I’m not gonna take over the decision-making process of the Senate majority leader,” Wyden said. “He’s been very supportive of what we’re doing.”

Cardin said at this point, it’s unclear whether the bill could get 60 votes or not.

“I find in these discussions that you’ll never really know until you bring the bill to the floor because people are listening to you. They’re impacted by what you say. But until you roll the dice, you don’t really know,” he said. “I hope Sen. Schumer can find the time.”

A few Republicans have said they would back the bill as it stands, including Sens. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma and Roger Marshall of Kansas. Senate Finance member Todd Young, R-Ind., has said he’d like to see changes, but would support the bill even without them.

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., a Finance member who opposes the bill, said if Democrats move it to the floor without buy-in from Crapo, backing from Republican supporters might not hold.

“We have people that are sympathetic to the bill, but can be convinced to not let it go to the floor until our voice has been heard,” Tillis said.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, another Finance Republican, said the only way forward for the legislation is with Crapo’s backing. Crapo has criticized a provision that would allow families to use the previous tax year’s income to qualify for the child tax credit, which he says weakens the work requirement. He’s also working with his caucus to see if other changes are needed to get Republicans onboard.

“The only way this can get to the floor is if Crapo and Wyden work something out,” Grassley said. “Plus, a very important thing for Republicans: at least half of the Republican caucus has to be for it.”

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