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GOP on the Clock for Taxes, Budget     12/11 06:11

   Start the countdown clock on a momentous two weeks for President Donald 
Trump and the GOP-run Congress.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Start the countdown clock on a momentous two weeks for 
President Donald Trump and the GOP-run Congress.

   Republicans are determined to deliver the first revamp of the nation's tax 
code in three decades and prove they can govern after their failure to 
dismantle Barack Obama's health care law this past summer. Voters who will 
decide which party holds the majority in next year's midterms elections are 
watching.

   Republicans are negotiating with Democrats on the contentious issue of how 
much the government should spend on the military and domestic agencies to avert 
a holiday shutdown. An extension of the program that provides low-cost health 
care to more than 8 million children and aid to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, 
Texas and Florida need to be addressed. And further complicating the 
end-of-year talks is the fate of some 800,000 young immigrants here illegally.

   Lawmakers are trying to get it all done by Dec. 22.

   A look at the crowded agenda:

   ___

   TAXES

   Republicans are upbeat about finalizing a tax bill from the House and Senate 
versions for Trump's first major legislative accomplishment in nearly 11 months 
in office.

   "I feel very confident we're going to get this done ... at the end of the 
day we're going to get this to the president's desk and he's going to sign it," 
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Sunday in an interview on 
Fox News Channel.

   The House and Senate bills would cut taxes by about $1.5 trillion over the 
next decade while adding billions to the $20 trillion deficit. They combine 
steep tax cuts for corporations with more modest reductions for most 
individuals.

   Republican leaders have struggled to placate GOP lawmakers from high-tax 
states like California, New York and New Jersey whose constituents would be hit 
hard by the elimination of the prized federal deduction for state and local 
taxes. Repeal of the deduction added up to $1.3 trillion in revenue over a 
decade that could be used for deep tax cuts.

   Lawmakers finally settled on a compromise in both bills --- full repeal of 
the state and local deductions for income and sales taxes, but homeowners would 
be able to deduct up to $10,000 in local property taxes.

   And yet it's still not a done deal.

   "There's a lot of conversation around the fact that in some of the blue 
states where the taxes are high, the property tax alone, they will not be able 
to use the $10,000 possible deductions," Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said on NBC's 
"Meet the Press with Chuck Todd" on Sunday. "So allowing for income and 
property taxes, which would cost another $100 billion by the way, to be options 
for folks in those states would be a better solution. And we're looking at ways 
to make that happen."

   Just a few weeks ago, lawmakers were unyielding on their insistence that the 
corporate tax rate be slashed from 35 percent to 20 percent. Now, one way to 
finance the changes on state and local taxes would be to cut the corporate tax 
rate to 21 or 22 percent instead.

   ___

   GOVERNMENT SPENDING

   Republicans and Democrats are trying to work out a sweeping budget deal. 
They got a temporary reprieve from a partial government shutdown when they 
passed a stopgap, two-week bill last Thursday.

   Republicans want a major boost in defense spending. Democrats want a similar 
increase for domestic agencies.

   Congress also has to figure out how much disaster aid should be directed to 
Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida. The Trump administration requested $44 billion 
last month, an amount lawmakers from hurricane-slammed regions say is 
insufficient. The latest request would bring the total appropriated for 
disaster relief this fall to close to $100 billion --- and the government still 
must calculate how much it will cost to rebuild Puerto Rico's devastated 
housing stock and electric grid.

   ___

   CHILDREN'S HEALTH

   Fresh federal money for the Children's Health Insurance Program, known as 
CHIP, ran out on Oct. 1, a blow to the widely popular program that provides 
low-cost medical care to more than 8 million children. Some states have relied 
on unspent funds, while others that were running out of money got a short-term 
reprieve in the two-week spending bill.

   Lawmakers hope to agree on a long-term budget solution for a program that's 
about $14 billion a year.

   ___

   IMMIGRATION

   Democrats want to act now to protect young immigrants who came to the United 
States illegally as children, with demands that a solution is included in any 
year-end spending deal.

   "We will not leave here without a DACA fix," said Minority Leader Nancy 
Pelosi, D-Calif., referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals 
program.

   These young immigrants, often referred to as Dreamers, face deportation in a 
few months after Trump reversed administrative protections established by 
President Barack Obama.

   Republicans say it can wait till next year and shouldn't bog down the broad 
budget agreement. However, House GOP leaders likely will require Democratic 
votes for the spending bill and they have to work out a deal with Pelosi.


(KA)

 
 
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