How House Republicans Could Prove that They Won’t Increase Taxes on the Middle Class

by Sam Wice — Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017

House Republicans plan to release the full details of their tax-reform proposal tomorrow.  If Republicans follow their prior framework, they will propose a 2% tax increase on individuals in the 10% and 33% tax brackets.  If House Republicans want to prove that their tax-reform proposal would not be a tax increase on the middle class to pay for tax cuts benefiting the wealthy and large corporations, they should not waive a House rule requiring a three-fifth vote to approve a tax increase.  The House considers its tax-increase rule so important that the rule is one of only two House rules that requires a supermajority vote.  House Rule XXI requires:

A bill or joint resolution, amendment, or conference report carrying a Federal income tax rate increase may not be considered as passed or agreed to unless so determined by a vote of not less than three-fifths of the Members voting, a quorum being present. In this paragraph the term “Federal income tax rate increase” means any amendment to subsection (a), (b), (c), (d), or (e) of section 1, or to section 11(b) or 55(b), of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, that imposes a new percentage as a rate of tax and thereby increases the amount of tax imposed by any such section.

The relevant subsections include individual-tax rates, the estate tax, corporate-tax rates, and the alternative-minimum tax.

Like how Senate Republicans have waived the Senate rule that prevents tax reform from increasing the deficit, House Republicans will likely waive the House rule that prevents tax reform from increasing taxes.  When considering legislation, the House of Representatives typically passes a special order (which waives most applicable House rules) determining how the House will consider the bill.  Even though the tax-increase rule requires a supermajority vote, House Republicans have previously determined that they can waive the rule in a special order.

However, if tax reform would not increase taxes, what do House Republicans have to fear from letting the House Parliamentarian decide if tax reform would comply with the rule?  Any member of the House that votes for a special order waiving the tax-increase rule would be voting to allow a tax increase on the middle class.

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About Sam Wice

Sam Wice is a former analyst at the Congressional Budget Office and a former Council Member of the American Bar Association’s Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice. He can be reached at sam.wice[at]outlook.com.

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