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House Passes Its Tax Bill; Senate Finance OKs Senate's Bill

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Editor’s note: This version of the article has been updated with news of House passage of H.R. 1, the House version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act bill, and the Senate Finance Committee’s move to approve the Senate version of the bill..

The full House has just approved its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, H.R. 1, as members of the Senate Finance Committee were preparing to complete and approve their version of the bill.

(Related: Scott Kicks Off Battle Over Senate Tax Bill Life Provisions)

Members of the House voted 227-207 to pass H.R. 1 at 1:48 p.m. All of the 192 Democrats who participated voted against the bill, and 13 of the 240 Republicans who participated voted against it.

Senate Finance

The Senate Finance Committee began considering the Senate version of the tax bill Monday and began voting on proposed amendments to the bill Wednesday. The committee wrapped up work on the bill after 10 p.m. Thursday.

The committee ended up voting to approving packages of changes approved by Republican leaders, and the bill itself, with a series of straight party-line votes.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the committee considered, and rejected, a series of amendments proposed by Democrats. Members rejected the proposed amendments on strict party-line votes.

Democrats on the committee have accused Republicans of developing the tax bill through a rushed, secretive process, and their proposed amendments appear to be designed mainly to get Republican members to go on record supporting tax bill features that the Democratic members oppose.

Republican members, for example, a proposed Democratic amendment that would have required a complete analysis of the bill to be publicly available, and they have also rejected a Democratic proposal to require a public hearing on the bill.

Republicans also have rejected proposed Democratic amendments that would try to “prevent corporations and the wealthy from benefiting from premium increases, health insurance coverage losses for Americans, and tax increases on the middle class”; “prevent loss of health care coverage for people with disabilities”; and “prevent middle class families from losing their health insurance or paying more for it.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the chairman of the committee, appeared to have warm feelings for at least one of the proposed amendments. Hatch praised a package of amendments proposed by Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., has a constructive proposal.

One of the amendments would save the federal historic preservation tax credit, along with a community development tax credit and a low-income housing tax credit. Hatch said he would work with Cardin to get the proposals more consideration later, but that he opposed trying to put those proposals in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act bill. 

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., a former insurance agent who was a member of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, also praised the Cardin amendment, although he, like Hatch, and all other Republicans on the committee, voted against the amendment. 

Life Insurance and Deferred Comp Provisions

Both the House and the Senate Finance Committee appear to have backed off from proposals that could have led to major changes in stock-based nonqualified deferred compensation programs for highly paid executives.

The fate of the life insurance tax provisions in the bills is less clear.

The House and the Senate have included different packages of life insurance company tax increase in the versions of the tax bill.

Scott proposed a package of life insurance company tax changes in the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., proposed a “placeholder” amendment that would let him propose a package of life insurance company tax provision changes. At press time, it did not appear that the Senate Finance Committee included either amendment in the version of  the bill it approved.

The committee has posted documents concerning its final version of the tax bill here.

Senate floor prospects

H.R. 1 supporters persuaded 94.5% of the Republicans in the House to vote for H.R. 1.

If all Democrats and independents in the Senate unite against the Senate’s final tax bill, the Republicans will need 96% of their members in the Senate, or 50 of the 52 Republican senators, to get the bill through the Senate.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has said that he opposes the current version of the tax bill because he believes it’s too hard on small businesses.

The list of other Republican senators who may still be on the fence about the bill includes Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona, John McCain of Arizona, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. 

—Read 6 Ways the Senate Tax Bill Could Juice the Life Sector on ThinkAdvisor.

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