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Senate votes on tax reform Tuesday; after procedural problem, House to re-vote Wednesday

By JAKE ZUCKERMAN

Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A procedural problem with the GOP-backed tax reform package passed by the House of Representatives Tuesday afternoon will require a re-vote after the Senate votes Tuesday evening.

Rep. David McKinley (left), Rep. Evan Jenkins and Rep. Alex Mooney
(Gazette-Mail file photos)

Following the House roll call Tuesday afternoon, the Senate parliamentarian ruled that three minor provisions in the bill violated a procedural rule, named after West Virginia’s own late-Sen. Robert C. Byrd. Despite the hiccup, given the bill’s 227-203 passage, it’s unlikely to change the end result.

All three West Virginia congressmen voted for the bill Tuesday morning and have given no indication that their vote will change.

The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the bill — agreed upon by a conference committee between House and Senate members — will increase the deficit by 2027 by $1.46 trillion. It also temporarily will lower taxes for working-class families while permanently lowering them for corporations and high-earning Americans when several provisions expire in December 2025, among a host of other, sweeping changes.

In a November interview, Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., said taxes should not increase for the middle class, long-term or short-term.

“The thing you mentioned about the middle class — the 1 percent raise — that sounds like that could be taken care of within a conference committee,” he said. “Taxes should not go up for anyone in the middle class now or in the future.”

JCT data show that, while taxes will decrease for people at every level of the income spectrum in calendar year 2019, by 2027, the average person earning less than $75,000 per year will face a tax hike. It estimates that people who earn between $10,000 and $20,000 per year will pay 0.9 percent more in taxes under the bill by 2027 than under current law.

When asked about the conflict between Mooney’s statement and earlier versions of the bill, his spokesman said there are provisions the congressman wanted that did not make it in the final version, such as a reduced number of tax brackets and an outright repeal of the death tax.

However, he voted for it because “tax relief is much needed and this bill will grow our economy and increase pay checks for all West Virginians.”

Along with Mooney, Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., voted for the bill. Jenkins sits on the House Appropriations Committee and regularly calls for curbing the federal deficit, including on his official website’s issues page.

“One of the most important things that Congress can do to get our economy moving again is to reduce our debt and deficit,” the site reads.

In September, Jenkins voted against a proposal to raise the federal debt ceiling while offering disaster aid to areas struck by Hurricane Harvey. He said at the time that he did so because he did not want to add to a steadily growing deficit.

His staff did not respond to an interview request for this report.

Politico reported Monday evening that the House is now considering an $81 billion disaster-aid package to be split among Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

A spokesman for Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., criticized the deficit estimate from the JCT, stating that it does not properly account for the economic growth that will come from the tax cuts. Citing a report from the Tax Foundation, he said that, when proper gross domestic product increases are accounted for, the deficit will grow only by $448 billion.

When asked if McKinley is concerned about the middle-class-focused cuts expiring after 2025, his spokesman, Alec Thomas, said he would expect the cuts to be renewed when the time comes, as happened to tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush.

“[McKinley] wishes we could have made it permanent, but in order to pass under the Senate’s reconciliation rules, it wasn’t possible,” Thomas said.

If Congress were to renew the cuts in 2025, any revenue estimate would need to be adjusted for an additional loss to federal tax revenue.

“[The bill] is at a point where the congressman is comfortable with it, given the huge savings that West Virginia’s families will see,” Thomas said. “This is about providing much-needed relief to the middle class that are recovering from the past administration that decimated WV’s economy.”

Reach Jake Zuckerman at [email protected], 304-348-4814 or follow @jake_zuckerman on Twitter.

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