Alaska

Senate Agrees to Tax Bill Conference With House

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, will be a key negotiator as the House and Senate reconcile their versions of a tax overhaul. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate voted Wednesday to officially begin conference negotiations with House members over a tax code overhaul, as Republicans race to send a finished bill to President Donald Trump’s desk before Christmas.

The 51-47 party-line vote was largely a formality. Behind-the-scenes talks have already begun since the Senate passed its version early Saturday morning, following House passage of its own bill before Thanksgiving.

Picture This: A ‘Perfecto’ Final Tax Bill
As House, Senate negotiate, president raises expectations

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks with reporters about the GOP tax bill between votes in the Capitol on Nov. 30. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House and Senate are not even in formal conference negotiations on a tax overhaul measure yet, but the expectation from the White House is clear: It’s got to be “perfecto.”

On a day of increasing uncertainty over how to fund the government past Dec. 8, President Donald Trump hosted a small group of Senate Republicans at the White House and placed his marker. 

GOP Power Play in Hurricane-Ravaged Puerto Rico
Conditional funding gains support amid talk of new Marshall Plan

Workers in Caguas, south of San Juan, Puerto Rico, repair electrical lines on Oct. 25, more than a month after Hurricane Maria hit the island. (Ramon Tonito Zayas/AP file photo)

In late September, just over a week after winds of 155 miles per hour flattened homes and struck down power lines and more than 30 inches of rain inundated parts of the island of Puerto Rico, a leader of the recovery efforts with the Army Corps of Engineers offered his blunt assessment of the damage.

“This is a massive undertaking, one in which I don’t think we’ve undertaken before in terms of this magnitude,” Col. James DeLapp told CNN. The closest thing he could think of by way of comparison? “When the Army Corps led the effort to restore … electricity in the early stages of the Iraq war in 2003 and 2004.”

Some in Congress Still Have a Taste for Pork
For a Republican majority searching for wins, there may be no better time to bring back earmarks

Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole says “there is plenty of sentiment” in the House for reviving earmarks. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In the year since Speaker Paul D. Ryan blocked his party’s effort to revive earmarks, a lot hasn’t happened.

There’s been no repeal of Obamacare and no border wall approval. Plans to fund the government are struggling to lift off.

12 House Republicans Sign Letter Opposing Arctic Drilling
The proposal, not included in the House-passed tax bill, remains in the Senate version on floor

Reindeer wander off at the end of the Senate Democrats’ news conference and rally opposing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge at the Capitol on Thursday. A number of activists dressed up as polar bears and reindeer for the event. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A dozen House Republicans, half of whom voted for the House tax overhaul bill that passed Nov. 13, wrote a letter to GOP leaders urging them not to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, adding another complication to negotiating a tax bill that can pass both chambers.

The Senate tax overhaul bill is tied in a reconciliation measure with legislation that would open up drilling parts of the ANWR. Its inclusion is seen as key to having secured GOP Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s support for the measure.

Tax Overhaul's Arctic Drilling Byrd Problems Resolved
Murkowski says Republicans drafted fixes to technical concerns

Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, right, have been working through the snags with their tax bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 7:45 p.m. | Most of the focus has been on taxes, but the portion of the Senate reconciliation bill that would open up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge needed to be revised, too.

Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said the fixes that are being worked out for Byrd violations in her portion of the bill would be added to a substitute to be offered by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

CBO: Insurance Market Stabilization Impact Null If Mandate Repealed

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Legislation from the duo at the helm of the Senate health panel would do little to improve the number of uninsured individuals if the mandate created by the 2010 health law is repealed, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

A repeal of the mandate — which requires individuals to purchase insurance or pay a yearly fine — is currently included in the GOP bill to overhaul the U.S. tax code.

Trump Lobbies GOP on Tax Bill, But McConnell Still Needs Votes
During turbulent day, White House tries to get a legislative win

President Donald Trump arrives on Tuesday with Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for the Republican Senate Policy luncheon in the Capitol to discuss a tax overhaul bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump lobbied GOP senators behind closed doors Tuesday to support a tax overhaul bill that is key to his agenda, but the chamber’s leading Republican indicated afterward he is still searching for the votes to pass it.

Trump returned to Capitol Hill for the third time in four weeks to sell Republican members on the House and Senate versions of GOP tax plan. But this time, he also went to try and wrangle the remaining holdouts to secure the 50 votes needed to pass the bill later this week. (Vice President Mike Pence could cast the 51st and decisive vote.)

Podcast: Tax Bills Stir Anxiety in Largest Generation — Millennials
The Week Ahead, Episode 80

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski faces a tax plan conundrum with a clash between two of her key policy goals — drilling in ANWR and protecting access to health care back home. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Millennials are the largest living generation and are just starting their careers, so the GOP’s tax plan would affect them all of their working lives. They’re concerned about the proposed changes to the tax treatment of housing, education, health care and income, says CQ reporter Laura Weiss.

Show Notes:

Thanksgiving Ads Served as Prelude to Senate Tax Debate
Outside spending pushed Republicans in all directions

Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson looks on during the markup of the tax bill in the Senate Finance Committee on Nov. 16. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

If all goes according to plan for Senate Republicans, they will pass a sweeping tax overhaul through the chamber before leaving for the weekend.

But as they and President Donald Trump learned during the Senate’s health care reconciliation exercise, getting to 50 votes can be difficult.