Nothing seems to get lawmakers to get their jobs done and pass bills more than the threat of having to be in Washington over the holidays.
Knowing this, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) made it very clear Thursday that Congress staying in session over Christmas is in option if they have not advanced a tax overhaul bill by then.
“We’re going to keep people here for Christmas if we have to,” the speaker said at a Heritage Foundation event. “I don’t care. We have to get this done.”
However, that won’t be necessary if all goes according to plan.
In a perfect world the Senate would pass a budget resolution next week and go to conference with the House to quickly fix the differences between their budgets. Once both chambers of Congress have adopted a reconciled budget with a common reconciliation instruction for the tax overhaul, the House Ways and Means Committee will release the tax overhaul bill and go to markup.
The House will then take up the measure on the floor with the goal of getting it passed and over to the Senate in November, Ryan said.
“We are actually on track timeline wise,” he said.
If the House does get a bill to the Senate this November, timing is then out of Paul Ryan’s control until the upper chamber acts. But the Christmas threat is not empty as the two chambers are expected to pass different bills and a conference committee will likely be needed to close the gaps.
The speaker will want to keep his members in session until a conference committee report on the tax bill is passed.
Ryan also had a warning for members and anyone else who stands in the way of advancing the tax bill: “If we squander this opportunity, it’s not going to come back.”
The last time lawmakers overhauled the tax code was 1986, and Paul Ryan and many members believe that if Congress doesn’t pass a new overhaul this year while they’ve got GOP control of the legislative and executive branches, that the trend of inaction will continue.
GOP are already running into some issues with their plan, like growing opposition to a proposal to repeal the state and local tax deduction.
While some members in Congress are floating proposals on how to keep the tax break, albeit in a more limited form, Ryan has signaled that he wants to see it go.
“These are the issues that we have to help members see the bigger picture,” Ryan said when asked about the deduction Thursday.
Taxpayers from all states will better off because of proposals to double the standard deduction, increase the child tax credit and eliminate the marriage penalty, he said.
While there may be some “narrow thing” members don’t like in the Republican plan, the broader view about the overall benefit is prevailing, Ryan said.
“That’s why I feel so good about where we are in the House — and the Senate,” he said.