The House will have to take a mulligan on tax reform after the Senate parliamentarian ruled some portions of the bill don’t pass muster with reconciliation rules Tuesday afternoon, an embarrassing if temporary setback for Republicans’ top legislative priority as they close out the year.
The screw-up was on the Senate side, and is the latest sign of how fast Republicans are trying to rush through a major overhaul of both corporate and individual tax law.
The parliamentarian struck down Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) prized change to allow 529 college savings plans to be used for homeschooling expenses, as well as part of a provision exempting some private universities from a new tax on colleges’ student endowments. The title of the bill itself, “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” was also ruled to violate Senate rules for allowing the bill to pass with 51 votes rather than a supermajority.
The changes are relatively minor — but the process screw-up is embarrassing. That ruling came just hours after House Republicans passed the $1.5 trillion tax cut, patting themselves on the back for a job well done.
“In the mad dash to provide tax breaks for their billionaire campaign contributors, our Republican colleagues forgot to comply with the rules of the Senate. We applaud the parliamentarian for determining that three provisions in this disastrous bill are in violation of the Byrd rule. It is our intention to raise a point of order to remove these provisions from the conference report and require the House to vote on this bill again,” Budget Committee ranking Democrat Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Finance Committee ranking Democrat Ron Wyden (D-OR) said in a joint statement late Tuesday afternoon.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) office announced shortly afterwards that members should expect to revote on the bill Wednesday morning in response to the news. The Senate still plans to vote on the bill Tuesday night, though since it’ll now be a different bill the House will have to vote to concur with the changes before it can become law.
It’s a minor setback in the grand scheme for the GOP — but not a good look for Republicans.