House panel approves tax reform bill, as Senate GOP unveils rival version

Republicans in Congress took a pair of steps forward on a drive for sweeping tax reform on Thursday, as a key House committee approved a GOP tax package after some last minute changes, while Republican Senators made public the details of their own bill which differs in some important ways from the goals of President Donald Trump, as well as the House plan.

"I think this is a great bill," said Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL). "Not perfect, but a great bill."

"This is as close as we can get to fixing the tax code," added Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), as the House and Ways and Means Committee finished its work on the GOP plan. "This is going to simplify the tax code for nearly every American."

"I think we started off with one idea - and it made sense - it was to make America great again," said Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), who has been a strong supporter of President Trump.

Committee approval of the tax reform bill came after House Republicans unveiled a series of last minute changes to the GOP plan, trying to fix certain provisions that had drawn an outcry.

One of those moves would ensure that the GOP plan does not eliminate the adoption tax credit, which had drawn outrage from some Republicans and outside groups.

The late House changes did not include any provisions related to the Obama health law; there had been a lot of talk in recent days that Republicans would move to zero out the penalty on the individual mandate which requires Americans to buy health insurance coverage.

To raise more money to offset tax cuts included in the bill, the GOP changes expanded an excise tax to be levied on the investments of private colleges and universities, insuring that endowment assets held not only by the schools - but also by related organizations - would be included.

The GOP plan is to have a vote in the full House next week; more changes are likely as Republican leaders try to make sure they have the votes to approve the tax plan.

"We know there's more work to be done," said Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL). "This is an opportunity to be seized today."

Democrats howled in vain about the details, and how it came together.

"Frankly, I find this whole process an embarrassment," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

"What this bill should be called is not H.R. 1," said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), "but H.R. 1 percent," as Crowley wrote in the change on a poster board version of the tax reform bill's first page.

The committee vote was 24-16, straight along party lines.

"Americans deserve a new tax code for a new era of prosperity," said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), the main author of the tax reform bill, as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

At the same time, Senate Republicans were unveiling their own tax package, and it was quickly obvious that there were a number of differences than the House bill.

Among them:

+ The Senate bill would have 7 income tax brackets, compared to just 4 in the House bill.

+ The Senate plan would keep the current cap on mortgage interest deduction at $1 million.

+ The Senate bill completely repeals the state and local tax deduction.

+ The Senate would maintain the deduction for medical expenses.

+ The Senate would delay the start of a corporate tax cut until 2019.

+ This Senate bill would not eliminate the estate tax, but it would double the exemption for those federal inheritance taxes.

You can read the full 253 page summary of the Senate Republican tax bill here; work in the Senate Finance Committee will start next Monday.

From China, where President Trump is on his extended Asia trip, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders hailed the steps forward from GOP lawmakers.

"The President’s priorities have remained the same throughout this process: delivering tax cuts for middle income families, a simplified tax code, and lower rates for American businesses so they can grow, create jobs, raise wages for their workers, and dominate their global competition," Sanders said in a statement.

"There is still much to do, but the Administration remains confident that, through continued cooperation with Congress, we will achieve these priorities this year," she added.

And that remains the goal - getting this through the House before Thanksgiving, through the Senate in early December, and to the President by Christmas.

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