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Capitol Hill Recap: Tax Bill Lives!

Jay Heflin
February 1, 2024
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Key Takeaways

  • Despite the bipartisan bickering over tax legislation, House lawmakers overwhelmingly supported its passage.
  • Could SALT-cap be increased?

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives this week overwhelmingly supported tax legislation by a 357-70 vote. Next stop: The Senate.

What Went Down:

  • Despite the bipartisan bickering over tax legislation, House lawmakers overwhelmingly supported its passage.
  • Could SALT-cap be increased?

Let’s Get To It:

House vote:

House lawmakers took to the chamber’s floor on January 31st to debate tax legislation that the House Ways and Means Committee recently approved. The discussion on the floor was far more negative about the bill than it was complementary.

Lawmakers railed against the bill for helping the rich, hurting the poor, costing too much, not doing enough, and doing too much. There was barely a postive word said about the tax package

Then lawmakers voted on the legislation: 357 yeas, 70 nays.

The bill passed overwhelmingly with 169 Republicans and 188 Democrats supporting it. The “yeas” far outweighed the “nays” votes, which were comprised of 47 Republicans and 23 Democrats.

As previous reported in this column, there is a saying on Capitol Hill that goes “Don’t believe what lawmakers say, believe what they do.”

Last night’s action on the House floor was living proof of this saying.

The legislative text is here.

The bill now travels to the Senate, where the aforementioned saying could be appropriate.

Senators on both sides of the political aisle have criticized the bill. Their critiques largely echo the gripes in the House: Costs too much, doesn’t do enough, etc.

Some Senators are calling for the bill to be vetted by the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax policy. If the legislation goes this route, a final vote on the legislation could be weeks away – especially since the Senate is scheduled to not be in session for the weeks of February 12th and February 19th.

The Senate also has a lot on its plate, which includes funding the Federal government beyond March 1st for some agencies and March 8th for the remaining agencies. But these funding goals are not the chamber’s the top priority. The number one slot belongs to:

  • Border security
  • Aid to Israel
  • Aid to Taiwan
  • Aid to Ukraine
  • Supplemental funding for defense

Yes, five issues top the Senate’s priority list.

That being said, priorities sometimes are not the priority in Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) could decide against committee action on the tax bill and instead bring it to the chamber’s floor as a “stand-alone” bill or attached to another piece of legislation (assuming it already includes a tax title).

Avoiding the committee means a vote on the bill could happen in relative short order if Senators choose to waive several procedural hurdles.

If everything lines up – and Senators do not amend the legislation – a final vote could occur next week. From there, the bill would travel to the White House where President Joe Biden is expected to sign it into law.

However, if Senators raise objections to the process for moving the bill forward, then final action could take weeks.

Legislative outlook: The original goal for this bill was for it to be enacted before the start of the current tax season, which began on Monday. Given this goal, it’ll be interesting to see how quickly the Senate acts on this bill, and if Senators seek to amend the legislation.

Any changes made to the bill in the Senate will have to be approved by the House. Tick. Tock.

Emergency Meeting:

The House Rules Committee this morning approved tax legislation that would increase the SALT-cap for certain taxpayers. The bill is now expected to be voted on in the House, but the timing for this vote has not been announced.

Last night, the Committee scheduled an “emergency meeting” for the SALT cap. It took place early this morning. Such meetings, and the timing for them, are usually reserved for emergencies, hence the word being included in the title.

In the past, emergency meetings were called when the banking industry was on the verge of collapse, or when the country teetered toward war and authorizations were needed to protect the nation.

The current emergency meeting was called to advance legislation that increases the SALT cap. During this meeting, several lawmakers highlighted the fact that the reason for the meeting was not an emergency.

The legislation would up the SALT cap to $20,000 for joint filers earning less than $500,000 a year. The increase would only apply to 2023.

Legislative outlook: Ask anyone who closely follows the SALT issue and they will tell you that there are more House lawmakers who oppose increasing the SALT-cap then there are who support increasing it. Logic would suggest that legislation increasing the SALT-cap would fail in the House.

But here’s the thing: A growing number of lawmakers say one thing then do another. This dynamic was on full display during the Rules Committee hearing on the SALT-cap bill.

Some committee members blasted the bill for benefiting certain demographics over others, for its cost not being offset, and condemned it as “bad legislation.” Moments later, many of these naysayers voted to support the measure’s passage.

The question is: How many other House lawmakers will say they oppose a SALT-cap increase, but then support it. There could be a lot of them. Politically speaking, a vote against a SALT-cap increase could be construed as supporting a tax increase, which is bad for lawmakers seeking re-election no matter their party affiliation. 

The legislative text is here.

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.