Republicans finish tax bill, will release details later in day

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican negotiators in the U.S. Congress put the finishing touches on a sweeping tax overhaul and will release the details later on Friday, including plans for an expanded child tax credit aimed at winning the support of two wavering senators.

Representative Kevin Brady, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, told reporters that Republicans on the House-Senate negotiating committee working on the revamped bill had signed the finished product and the details would be published when the full House convenes at 5:30 p.m. EST (2230 GMT).

A member of the negotiating committee, Republican Representative Kristi Noem, told reporters earlier the refundable portion of an expanded child tax credit in the bill had risen to $1,400 from $1,000, an apparent bid to win support from Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Mike Lee.

"I believe we're in a good spot and should be able to earn his support," Noem said, referring to Rubio.

CNBC, citing anonymous sources, reported that Rubio is now on board with the finished bill. Before the expanded credit was circulated, Rubio had noted the legislation would double the child tax credit to $2,000 but only about half of that figure would be refundable to millions of working-class families.

He said on Twitter he could only support the bill if the percentage of the child tax credit available to working-class parents was increased to a figure "meaningfully higher" than 55 percent. Making the refundable portion $1,400 as Noem announced would be 70 percent.

Republican leaders hope to hold votes on the legislation in the full House and Senate next week. President Donald Trump touted a tax cut constantly during his campaign and wants an approved bill on his desk for his signature before Christmas.

It would be Trump's first major legislative victory since taking office in January.

With all 46 Democrats and two independents in opposition to the measure, Republicans can only afford to lose two of their 52 senators and still win passage. Republican Senator Bob Corker opposed an earlier version of the legislation, largely because of the bill's impact on federal deficits.

HURDLES REMAIN

As the tax package has evolved, it has tilted increasingly toward benefiting businesses and the wealthy, a trend some lawmakers have said is a concern. Provisions for offsetting the revenue costs of last-minute changes also were troublesome for some lawmakers.

After resisting demands for weeks to cut the top income tax rate for the richest taxpayers, the bill's authors did agree in recent days to lower it to 37 percent from 39.6 percent.

The Senate approved a wide-ranging version of the tax bill on Dec. 2 by a vote of 51-49, with Corker the only Republican to vote no. Earlier, the House of Representatives had approved its own tax legislation.

Independent and nonpartisan tax analysts have estimated that the bill will expand the $20 trillion national debt by at least $1 trillion in the next 10 years.

Moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins also has been non-committal on the bill, in part out of concern about its provision to repeal an Obamacare federal fine imposed on Americans who do not buy health insurance.

The Senate vote outlook has been further muddled by Senator John McCain's admission to the hospital for treatment for side effects of cancer therapy. His office said he "looks forward to returning to work as soon as possible."

Vice President Mike Pence has delayed a planned trip to the Middle East in case his vote is needed to break a tie on the final tax bill.

(Reporting by Makini Brice, Amanda Becker and Richard Cowan; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Bill Trott)

12/15/2017 13:27

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