As tax overhaul looms, Senate has upper hand

Lindsey McPherson, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- The Senate's passage of a tax overhaul illustrated a fragile coalition of support that ironically provides the chamber with the upper hand headed into conference committee negotiations with the House.

House Republicans wanted a conference process on the two chambers' differing tax bills to prevent the House from getting jammed by the Senate, as they acknowledge has happened frequently on major bills.

But some members realize that a conference committee may still result in a final product that tracks more with Senate priorities given the thin margin of support in that chamber.

Senate passage came after days of negotiations in which several Senate Republican holdouts were offered significant concessions to secure their votes, with some changes designed just to appease a single senator.

"You have senators over there negotiating 400 billion things. That's why people want to be in the Senate, not in the House," Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Ryan A. Costello said, acknowledging that the Senate "absolutely" has the upper hand heading into conference.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday he expects negotiations to go smoothly.


"We've moved our initial thinking on this in the direction of the House bill, for example the property tax deduction, in order to get the bills closer together than they were," the Kentucky Republican said. "I'm not saying the conference will be a piece of cake, but I don't think there's much chance we won't be able to reconcile our differences and move forward."

While Costello is not as adamant about the procedural argument for going to conference as other members, he said he supports it "on the basis that we need all members to feel that their opinion matters."

"And if you're just going to eat a Senate bill, then the only reason that we passed our first tax bill was to force the Senate to act," the member of the moderate Tuesday Group added.

Another Pennsylvania Republican from the opposite end of the political spectrum, Freedom Caucus member Scott Perry, also acknowledged the power the Senate holds.


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