No. 2 US House Republican mulls tying border policy to tax bill next year

By Thomson Reuters May 22, 2024 | 10:05 AM

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. congressional Republicans would aim to pass a slew of tax, border and economic policies through a legislative maneuver that would bypass Democratic objections, if they sweep the Nov. 5 elections, the No. 2 Republican in the House of Representatives said on Wednesday.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said if Donald Trump wins the presidency and Republicans win the Senate and keep the House, they will use a process called “budget reconciliation” to retain tax cuts enacted when Trump was president and to scale back Democratic-passed regulations on energy and other industries.

Reconciliation allows lawmakers to enact fiscal legislation with simple-majority votes in both chambers, bypassing normal Senate rules requiring 60 of the 100 senators to agree on most legislation.

“It’s something we’re looking at to fix a lot of the problems that Joe Biden created and get the economy moving again,” Scalise told reporters at the U.S. Capitol.

Democrats used the same process to bypass Republican objections to measures including a $430 billion bill meant to fight climate change and lower drug prices passed in 2022 and signed into law by President Biden.

Republicans are favored to win a majority in the Senate, which currently has a 51-49 Democratic majority, as Biden’s party is defending seats in at least three Republican-leaning states. But they are unlikely to win a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority.

Scalise also said the strategy could allow Congress to shore up security at the U.S.-Mexico border by funding more border security agents, additional security technology and the completion of a border wall.

Even with full Republican control in Congress, tax and spending legislation could still face obstacles.

The current 217-213 House Republican majority has had difficulty moving Republican spending legislation over the past 18 months, with progress stymied by party infighting over hardline demands for deep spending cuts and poison-pill policy riders.

A $78 billion package of tax breaks for businesses and low-income families managed to pass the House on a strong bipartisan vote in January. However, the measure has stalled in the Senate, where it has faced Republican opposition.

Trump has also been mulling a new middle-class tax cut, which could prove popular with voters but could also worsen the U.S. budget deficit.

The tax cuts that Scalise hopes to retain next year were implemented through a massive tax-cut package after Trump won the presidency in 2016.

Democrats and other critics say Trump’s cuts added $2 trillion to the federal deficit, which now exceeds $34 trillion. Republicans claim the policies aided tax receipts by fueling the buoyant growth that characterized the U.S. economy before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in 2020.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)