Politics

Congress Begins Digesting Tax Bill Outlines

Republicans say they need more detail

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, and the GOP leadership team briefed members about their tax legislation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans leaving a closed-door conference meeting said they needed to see more details of the tax code overhaul before assessing the plan.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said “not enough detail” was provided. “Most of what was talked about in there was still at the 15,000-to-20,000 foot level.”

“At this point I don’t know enough to comment,” the North Carolina Republican said.

Rep. Mark Walker said he was concerned about potential changes to charitable deductions for households that will no longer have an incentive to itemize, given the increased standard deduction to up to $24,000 for joint tax filers.

“That’s my biggest concern. That’s something we’re still working on,” said Walker. He added that the Republican Study Committee, of which he is chairman, has not yet taken a position but assumed the group would be broadly supportive.

“This was the opening salvo. Now folks I think are asking questions,” said Rep. Ryan A. Costello of Pennsylvania. “It’s going to require all of us to become very well versed in all the details.”

Costello said he was “pleased” with what he’s seen of how the plan treats tax benefits for retirement savings, maintains property tax deductions and lowers rates.

Rep. Dan Donovan said he didn’t know yet whether the proposed $10,000 cap on state and local property tax deductions would be enough for him or other GOP members from high-tax states.

“I’m going to analyze it to see what’s best for the people I represent,” the New York Republican said. “I’m always concerned about the SALT deduction.”

Other Republicans were rallying around the package already, however, including Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, a member of the Freedom Caucus.

“I think the bill is magnificent. Is it perfect? No. There will always be issues. But I mean when you consider it as a whole, which is how it has to be considered, I think it’s a truly excellent plan,” Franks said. He added that he believed the Freedom Caucus would endorse the measure after being able to review the package in full.

Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Meehan, a Ways and Means member, predicted the net impact on average households would be positive.

“Local property tax will be able to be preserved up to $10,000. And that’s going to be a big concession for districts in which the average is less than that, for most homeowners,” Meehan said. “We have to look at the totality of the circumstances and I think most people will see a net positive benefit, even those who are currently concerned about that in very high tax jurisdictions.”

House Budget Chairwoman Diane Black, who is leaving Congress to run for governor in her home state of Tennessee, said the overall reaction among the GOP conference was positive. “It was great. It was like a party,” she said.

“Leadership has done a wonderful job,” said Rep. Dave Brat of Virginia, who has never been shy about criticizing GOP leaders, including in his long-shot but ultimately successful 2014 campaign to unseat former Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Jennifer Shutt, Kellie Mejdrich, Lindsey McPherson and Paul M. Krawzak contributed to this story.

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