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Capitol Hill Recap: Will Words Translate Into Action on Tax Bill Vote

Jay Heflin
January 25, 2024
Taxes word on wooden block

Key Takeaways

  • Will lawmaker grievances with the tax bill kill the deal. 

Leading lawmakers seek a House vote on tax legislation, but will it garner enough support to pass?

What Went Down:

  • Lawmakers of every stripe are complaining about measures in the tax bill approved last week by the House tax-writing committee, but will their words translate into action?

Let’s Get To It:

Believe It When You See It:

There are many sayings on Capitol Hill that depict the goings-on in Congress. For example: The saying “it takes 60 to get to 50” describes the number votes required to pass legislation in the Senate when a legislative procedure called “cloture” is invoked. (The actual vote total to pass is 51, but the saying flows better using 50.)

The congressional idiom that best describes the current state of the tax bill is “Don’t believe what lawmakers say, believe what they do.”

Lawmakers in both political parties and in both chambers of Congress have multiple issues with the tax legislation that was approved last week by the House Ways and Means Committee.  The legislative text is here.

The lawmakers’ concerns about the bill include, but are not limited to:

  • The Child Tax Credit is too big.
  • The Child Tax Credit is too small.
  • Why isn’t SALT-cap relief included in the bill?
  • The business tax breaks are larger than the family tax breaks.
  • The bill’s cost needs to be fully offset.
  • The cost offset in the bill is dicey.

Complaints about the bill come as the House could vote on the measure next week. House Republican leaders, who control the chamber, put folks on notice earlier this week that a vote on the legislation could – repeat: could – occur the week of January 29th.

Included in their congressional website entitled “Bills to be Considered on the House Floor” is the subtitle “Items that may be considered.” Below it is listed “H.R. 7024, Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024.”

The potential vote begs the following question: Will lawmakers’ gripes about the bill translate into them opposing the legislation? If so, the number of “no” votes will be large enough to keep the bill from passing Congress.

But words don’t always translate into action on Capitol Hill.

Exhibit A: Last week’s House Ways and Means Committee markup on the tax bill.

For those new to the game, a “markup” is basically a hearing where members debate and amend legislation.

The procedure for any markup on Capitol Hill is committee members express their feelings about the bill and then try to amend the legislation.  

During last week’s markup, several lawmakers were very critical of the tax bill. Some called it a gift to the wealthy while others decried it being a handout to the poor. There was talk that it did too much. There was also chatter that it didn’t do enough. The condemnation was bipartisan and sometimes passionate.  

Then came the vote to pass the legislation out of the Committee. Lawmakers overwhelmingly supported the bill: 40 ayes to 3 nos.

Mind you: The legislation was not changed one iota during the markup, which means the bill that lawmakers groused about was the exact same piece of legislation that they voted to pass from committee.  

The outcome from the House Ways and Means Committee markup could be a harbinger for how the votes will fall on the House floor: Lawmaker complaints about the bill may not translate into opposition for the bill.

The current plan is for the House to vote on the tax bill “under suspension of the rules.” Going this route means two-thirds of voting lawmakers must support the bill for it to pass. Normally, passage requires simple majority, but not for bills “under suspension of the rules.”

Also, bills that go to the House floor “under suspension of the rules” cannot be amended. This means that the bill approved by the House Ways and Means Committee should be the subject of the House floor vote.

Legislative outlook: Based upon the outcome in the House Ways and Means Committee markup on the bill, it would seem that passage from the House is likely because most lawmakers talking smack about the bill will not vote against it.

Assuming House passage of the bill, the legislation will travel to the Senate where lawmakers, once again, are grousing about the bill.

The Senate Finance Committee could hold a markup on the legislation. If the Senate committee marks up the bill, then it will take longer for the bill to be enacted because any changes made to the bill must be approved by the House. According to conversations with Senate insiders, the upper chamber is in wait-and-see-mode for how it will handle the tax bill. 

Pardon if this recap missed a monumental moment, but we can recap it next time!

Adios amigos!

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About the Author(s)

Jay Heflin Photo

Jay Heflin

Director of Legislative Affairs
Jay brings more than two decades of experience to his job as Director of Tax Legislative Affairs in Eide Bailly’s Washington D.C. office. Jay provides political intelligence and guidance to the firm on the progress of tax legislation on Capitol Hill. Prior to joining the firm, he was a director at the tax lobbying shop Federal Policy Group, LLC, where he tracked tax legislation in Congress and participated in lobbying efforts to amend tax legislation. Before joining the Federal Policy Group, he was a Congressional reporter for several news organizations where his beat was tax policy.