On Thursday, the U.S. House took the first step towards the first major federal tax reform in more than three decades when it passed a $4.1 trillion budget on a near party lines vote.
The proposal, which was introduced by U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., would end the current system of seven tax brackets and replace them with three brackets of 12 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent while adding $1.5 to the deficit over the next ten years. Black’s proposal includes language to ensure the budget reconciliation process would be followed which limits the potential threat of a filibuster from Senate Democrats. Under the reconciliation rules, a bill can be passed in the Senate 50 votes and the vice president’s support.
The House passed Black’s resolution on a 219-206 vote. Eighteen Republicans joined the Democrats in opposing Black’s proposal including two from Florida: U.S. Reps. Brian Mast and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
From his seat on the U.S. House Budget Committee, U.S. Rep Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., praised Black’s proposal on Thursday.
“The FY18 budget provides a path to fiscal stability and prosperity for our country,” Diaz-Balart said. “This budget serves as a vehicle for meaningful tax reform, which will create a simplified tax code that empowers American families, encourages job growth, and revitalizes our economy. Within the last 10 months, we have seen economic growth and consumer confidence steadily climb, and House Republicans are committed to passing tax reform that will lead to continued growth. The budget also supports our troops and protects U.S. national security interests by providing our military with the robust resources it requires to defend our country. I thank Speaker Ryan and Chairman Black for their leadership on this issue, and I look forward to working with them and our colleagues to create a fair and simple tax code that strengthens our country.”
While most Republicans backed Black’s proposal, Mast said it did not cut spending while adding to the national debt.
“Washington’s spending habits are completely out of control, with debt totaling more than $60,000 per person,” Mast said. “Every year, families and small businesses are forced to set and live by a budget. Unfortunately, today’s vote continues the disastrous trend of passing budgets that don’t really balance by using unrealistic expectations to fake the numbers—something book keepers in any company, anywhere, would be fired for doing.
“After less than a year in Washington, there’s no doubt in my mind that the system is rigged against the vast majority of our country. We need tax reform that lowers rates while closing loopholes used by rich lobbyists. The government needs to spend less and empower the American people to do more. Because this budget doesn’t do nearly enough to end the tax and spend status quo, fails to adequately protect Florida’s seniors and will drive us deeper into debt, I had no choice but to vote no.”
Democrats from the Sunshine State lined up against Black’s proposal. U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., insisted it hurt programs like Medicaid and Medicare while the proposed tax reforms helped higher earning Americans over the middle class.
"The House Republican budget is a callous proposal to shut down essential programs like Medicare, steal billions of dollars from middle class Americans’ wallets and funnel it to billionaires, and undermine key national priorities by cutting infrastructure funding and wreaking havoc on our health-care system,” Deutch said. "The Republican budget threatens the most vulnerable among us by cutting Medicaid by $1.1 trillion and Medicare by $487 billion over the next ten years. It proposes $50 billion in cuts to veterans’ benefits and $154 billion in SNAP benefits over the same period. And as we face dire international threats from North Korea and terrorist groups like ISIS, House Republicans want to slash our diplomatic and foreign aid budgets by $11 billion.
"This partisan budget ignores so many of the nation’s priorities," Deutch added. “We should be working to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which ensures nearly 9 million kids get access to care. We should be setting up a bipartisan Select Committee on Gun Violence to come up with sensible, bipartisan solutions to our gun violence epidemic. And we should be working together - Democrats and Republicans - to improve our healthcare system, not take away essential health benefits like protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
"This budget, for the fiscal year that began a week ago, is being rammed through the House just so Republicans can move forward with their tax plan that could save President Trump up to $1.1 billion while making middle class families pay more,” Deutch said in closing. “The trillions of dollars in tax cuts to corporations and the wealthiest Americans will be paid for on the backs of millions of hard-working Americans. Tens of millions of American families could see higher taxes from this plan. When 80 percent of the tax benefits go to the top one percent of earners, it was clearly written without the required concern for the other 99 percent of Americans. This House Republican budget is removed from the reality in cities and towns across the country. It does not reflect American values. I am strongly opposed to this budget, and I voted against it."
With the House passing its version, the focus on the budget now heads to the Senate where Republicans will look to keep their majority intact even as some of its members have warned they will not support proposals which add to the national debt.