Republican leaders are moving forward with plans to rewrite an old-school tax code that President Donald Trump has repeatedly slammed as unfair and inefficient.
The bills would cut taxes for the middle class, but they also would make it easier for the wealthy to buy property in the most populous U.S. state.
“We have a new wave in the Republican Party,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who chairs the Finance Committee, a Senate panel.
“We have the largest economy in the world, and we are in a position to put our money where our mouth is.”
Ernst, who is one of Trump’s biggest backers, also introduced the Tax Reform Act of 2017, which would make a handful of tax breaks for the rich permanent and would allow corporations to write off $1.5 trillion in their income taxes.
“It’s a good tax reform that has a lot of merit,” Ernst said.
“It has not been done in a bipartisan fashion.”
Ernst also plans to introduce a bill to allow states to cap their tax rates and impose other measures, which she said would help the middle-class.
Her legislation would make some tax breaks permanent and allow corporations in the state to write-off their income tax.
However, Ernst said, it’s unclear how it would affect the states’ finances because the changes wouldn’t take effect until 2022.
The bill also would cut property taxes by more than half.
The GOP-controlled House of Representatives, which passed the tax overhaul earlier this year, has yet to act on Ernst’s bill.
Sen. John Thune (R, S.D.), a senior member of the panel, said he’s confident the Senate will pass the bill, which he called a “good start.”
“We will be able to do the same thing the Senate has done with the [House] version, which is a good start,” Thune said.
But Republicans in the Senate have balked at any changes to the tax code, saying they have little appetite to overhaul it.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) has repeatedly called for a “border adjustment tax,” which would raise the federal tax rate on imports from 35 percent to 50 percent, and he has said he would push for the change to the bill.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has also criticized the Senate for not taking up Ernst’s proposal.
“This is a big problem,” Schumer said.
“If you’re going to take on a problem like that, the Senate should get involved and work on it.”
Republicans in the House have also expressed concerns that Ernst’s plan would raise taxes for them.
“My concern is that this legislation will lead to a significant increase in taxes for middle-income taxpayers,” said Rep. Mark Walker (R), who serves as a ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee.
“And it also has to do with the fact that there are some tax credits that could be affected, such as the mortgage interest deduction, that I don’t think that’s appropriate.”
In a letter to Ernst, House Ways And Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R., Texas) and ranking member David Schweikert (R.-Ariz.) wrote that “it is difficult to imagine any bill that provides a significant tax relief for taxpayers at the very time that the country faces an historic economic challenge.”
“While we understand the frustration of those who are struggling to pay their taxes, there is no reason to think that lowering taxes will make any difference in their economic situation,” they wrote.
“The proposal in this bill is designed to benefit wealthy Americans at the expense of working Americans and middle- and lower-income Americans alike.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R – S.C.), another senior member on Ernst and other top House Republicans, said the tax plan “could be very helpful for the American people.”
“It is hard to imagine a tax bill that is more regressive than this one, but this bill does not have a single regressive component,” Graham said in a statement.
“I know from my own experience in the private sector that even the most regressive tax changes are not the only thing that will make the economy better.
It’s important that we do not let our political opponents derail our progress on this issue.”
Senators are expected to vote on the bill this week.