GOP Lawmakers Agree On Final Tax Package, Hatch Says
House and Senate GOP lawmakers have agreed on a final tax package, combining the House and Senate tax bills passed over the last month, according to Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
"We reached the agreement," Hatch said. "Between the House and the Senate."
Hatch declined to give any details of what would be included in the deal, deferring to President Trump to decide when the information will be released.
Congressional Republicans are considering abandoning Trump's demands for a 20 percent top corporate rate to help pay for more generous breaks elsewhere in the bill. In a major shift, Trump, told reporters on Wednesday that he was open to that plan
"It's at 35 right now, so if it got down to 21 I would certainly, I would be thrilled," Trump said. "We haven't set that final figure yet, but certainly 21 is a very great difference."
Republican members of conference committee working on the tax legislation went to the White House to meet over lunch with Trump, who was set to give an afternoon speech making what aides described as "his closing argument to the American people."
According to senior administration officials who briefed reporters but would not go on the record, Trump will tell the stories of several American families and outline how he says the tax legislation will affect them.
The deal was reached after a flurry of closed-door meetings between Republican negotiators began last week and continued around the clock in recent days. The talks centered around resolving differences between the two largely similar tax bills that passed the House and the Senate over the last several weeks.
Among the major issues were disagreements over write-offs for mortgage interest payments, state and local tax deductions, and the size and scope of benefits for some small businesses.
Negotiators were leaning towards allowing homeowners to write off interest on mortgages valued at $750,000 or less, according to several GOP aides. That is a increase from the $500,000 limit in the House bill and lower than current law which allows people write off interest on mortgages up to $1 million.
They also appeared to be nearing an agreement to allow taxpayers to write off up to $10,000 in taxes paid to state and local governments, the aides said. The decision was made in part to appease Republicans in high tax states like California, New Jersey and New York.
Tax breaks for small businesses were still a critical issue in the final hours of negotiation. Wisconsin GOP Sen. Ron Johnson told reporters he was working with negotiators on the conference committee to ensure the new tax system doesn't give corporations an unfair advantage over businesses that decide to file their taxes on the individual side of the tax code.
Johnson said he was pleased with the direction of the talks, but he would not commit to voting for the tax bill until a final agreement is released.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the number two Republican in the Senate, told reporters he believes the final tax legislation will be approved.
"I'm confident we'll pass the bill next week," Cornyn said. "Earlier is better."
The final legislation is also expected to include a measure from the Senate bill that would ease oil and gas drilling restrictions in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. That measure was included to appease Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowksi who has campaigned throughout her career to allow drilling in the vast protected area.
Republican aides say it could take several days before any final legislation is released and leaders hope to vote on the tax package early next week. Texas Sen John Cornyn, the number two Republican in the Senate says he believes the agreement will pass, meaning congress is on track to meet Trump's goal of signing a tax bill before Christmas.
GOP leaders are aiming to vote on the final bill early next week, to meet President Trump's deadline of passing a tax bill by Christmas, but Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged Republicans to hold off on a tax vote until January. That's when Sen.-elect Doug Jones, D-Ala., will take office, reducing the GOP majority to 51-49. Bringing up the final tax bill this month means GOP Sen. Luther Strange of Alabama will be able to cast a vote for it.
Additional reporting by NPR's Tamara Keith.