Efforts to overhaul the federal tax code are moving at lightning speed for Congress. On Thursday, Nov. 16, the House passed its version of HR 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and the Senate Finance Committee confirmed the Senate’s Tax Bill, setting the stage for a Senate floor vote, expected to occur on Nov. 30. Although both the House and Senate bills have the same name, their suggested changes are different. The Senate plan’s most marked differences from the House bill include provisions to delay a corporate tax-rate cut by one year and to make various individual tax breaks expire by 2026. These differences, along with a few other areas of contention, may serve as an opportunity to stop these harmful bills from being passed as currently written. 

One thing is clear, Senators and Representatives are listening to concerns and changing their minds on how they will vote on a tax bill. In the House, there were only 10 confirmed Republican “no” votes, prior to the floor vote, but 13 republican Representatives voted “no.” Barbara Comstock (R- Va.) had originally expressed her concern for the tax bill and suggested she would not vote in favor, however she had a last-minute change of heart and voted in favor of the bill. On the Senate side, Ron Johnson (R- Wis.) also expressed deep concerns about pass-through rates for certain types of businesses, but now seems to be moving toward supporting the tax bill. There are deep concerns with the tax bills and there is a keen awareness of how important a vote, whether yes or no, is for a congressional career. The bottom line is that legislators are listening and need to hear from constituents, especially members of the Alliance strategic action network.

The Senate can only lose two votes for the tax bill to fail. As of now, several senators are not happy with the bill. Senators Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona, and James Lankford of Oklahoma have said they don’t want tax cuts to add to the deficit.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has demanded no middle-class tax hikes for “every American.” According the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), the Senate tax bill fails to meet that standard. The JCT’s study shows a 13 percent tax hike on Americans making between $20,000 and $30,000 per year by 2021. After that year, that income group would continue to see a tax increase, rising to a 25 percent hike by 2027.

Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have said it’s a mistake to include repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate in the tax bill, fearing that would disrupt the health care system.

Beyond disruptions to health care, increases to the deficit, and inequitable distribution of tax cuts, these tax bills would be disastrous for the nonprofit human services sector and the millions of people and communities that rely on our programs and services. The Alliance network came out in opposition to the House bill this week. Read our position statement about our concerns with the House-passed bill, which carry over to the current version of the Senate bill. 

What is needed now is strong, sustained engagement. The Alliance network needs to make senators, especially those who already have concerns, aware of how devastating this bill would be to their constituents and nonprofit employers in their state, and keep them as a “no” vote on the current version of the Senate bill. The Alliance policy office is developing a series of ways to make your voice heard, beginning with today’s Action Alert to all senators. We will also be supplying customized advocacy tools to individual members in key states. It is so very important that you join with your colleagues in the strategic action network as congressional tax overhaul efforts progress.

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