House tempers flare on day one of tax overhaul markup

Source: Geof Koss, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The House Ways and Means Committee today will resume marking up its comprehensive tax package, after hours of heated debate yesterday over both the substance of the GOP plan and the process that produced it.

The panel meets at 10 a.m. today to continue work on the chairman’s mark released late last week, which appears to keep intact changes to the production and investment tax credits that have sparked concerns among renewable energy sectors (E&E Daily, Nov. 3).

Democrats signaled last week they’ll have amendments to address any changes to the 2015 deal that extended the PTC and ITC, but those issues did not come up during more than six hours of discussion yesterday.

Members spent much of the afternoon asking questions of the Joint Committee on Taxation about the bill, which Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said is “about providing long-overdue relief to American workers, families and job creators.”

But Democrats seized on an analysis by the Tax Policy Center that found at least 12 percent of taxpayers would pay more under the bill next year, with that figure rising to 28 percent in 2027.

Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), the ranking member on Ways and Means, said the bill was “a bad idea for millions of Americans, particularly those in the middle class,” and “puts the well-connected first.”

Debate repeatedly devolved into yelling matches, with members talking over one another.

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) complained frequently that changes in the bill would deprive as many as 9,000 residents of his district, which was heavily affected by wildfires, from claiming a tax break for their losses, while victims of hurricane damage in Texas and Florida would be protected.

“You took care of them,” he told Brady.

Brady in turn said the next disaster supplemental package would address tax relief for disaster victims.

Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) chastised Republicans for not holding a hearing on the Democrats’ tax bill, unveiled last week.

“It would have been great if we had the facts here,” he said, his face turning bright-red as he yelled across the dais at Republicans.

Illinois GOP Rep. Peter Roskam dismissed Larson’s points as “sanctimonious, self-righteous, retroactive nostalgia about process.”

Roskam said, “I don’t find it necessarily more persuasive when people speak louder.”

At one point, former Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin (D-Mich.) erupted when Brady introduced a 33-page substitute amendment addressing multiple sections of the bill.

“You make a mockery out of this committee, a mockery,” Levin said. “This is a total disgrace.”

He later told Brady: “You’re determined to pass a bill because you haven’t done anything of importance this year.”

Republicans are aiming to complete the bill by Thursday. Thompson at one point said the goal is to be finished by noon, which he said may require at least one night of “round-the-clock work.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a Finance Committee member, told reporters yesterday that Senate Republicans are expected to release their own tax bill later this week.