This Week on the Hill: Tax Reform Faces Crucial Test on Senate Floor

Last week’s much-needed break comes ahead of an anticipated legislative frenzy for the remainder of the calendar year. Republicans are racing to finish their tax reform push and the legislative calendar will be complicated by the expiration of government funding on Dec. 8. Given that Democratic votes will be needed for any funding package, expect for the minority party to seek concessions on issues such as a possible bipartisan healthcare fix and the protection of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Currently, Congress is slated to be in session only 12 days for the remainder of 2017, but that could change if Congressional leaders want more time to finish their legislative projects.

This week, the Senate is expected to take up the upper chamber’s version of tax reform legislation as lawmakers return from the Thanksgiving break. President Trump is planning on visiting the Senate on Tuesday to rally lawmakers around the legislation as Republicans steam towards their goal of passing the bill by the end of the calendar year. The floor process will likely see changes to the legislative text released by the Senate Finance Committee last week, reportedly including the $10,000 property tax deduction that was passed in the House version as a compromise on the elimination of the state and local tax deduction (SALT).

Approving the bill this week will be critical for Republican leaders to keep the legislation at the necessary pace to be approved before the end of 2017. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will be whipping the handful of senators who have shown hesitation in voting for the bill over issues such as the inclusion of the individual mandate and the application of pass-through rates for small businesses. Watch for the holdouts and skeptics — namely Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Bob Corker (R-TN), and John McCain (R-AZ) — to make their position more known as senators trickle back to Washington today.

Floor action in the Senate will start with additional judicial confirmations. Two votes are scheduled for today, namely a final confirmation vote on the nomination of Dabney Freidrich to be a U.S. District Judge and a cloture vote on the nomination of Gregory Katsas for the same position.

After advancing tax reform legislation before the break, House lawmakers are set to return from Thanksgiving break on Tuesday. At the top of the agenda is a bill (H.R. 3017) that would reform the government’s treatment of brownfields – a formal term for property that has been contaminated by hazardous waste – and reauthorize the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Brownfields Program. House lawmakers also will consider a bill (H.R. 1699) related to manufactured housing policies.