Top House tax writer Kevin Brady doubts new GOP tax cuts can get through the Senate before midterms

Key Points
  • The top House tax writer, Rep. Kevin Brady, says he does not think the full Congress can pass the latest GOP tax bills before November's midterm elections.
  • He says the Senate will consider each of the three bills making up Republicans' second phase of tax reform individually if the party keeps a majority.
  • The tax proposals are at least partly designed to put political pressure on Democrats ahead of the midterms.
Tax reform will prolong long-term economic forecast for US, says Rep. Kevin Brady
Tax reform will prolong long-term economic forecast for US, says Rep. Kevin Brady

The Senate is unlikely to pass the GOP's latest tax legislation before the midterms, even if the House votes on the measures this month as planned, the top House tax writer said Wednesday.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said "the time is short before the election" to approve bills his party has dubbed its second phase of tax reform. Both the contentious confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and challenges in getting Democratic support make quick passage difficult in the Senate.

"From a timing standpoint, we're going to put the ball on the field and move it through the House, to the Senate," Brady told CNBC's "Squawk Box." "It's in three bills, so Leader McConnell's been clear; when I see support, 60 votes, we'll move those three bills as we see it."

He said he thinks the Senate will start considering the tax proposals after November's elections. Democrats are favored to take control of the House, while they have much longer odds of flipping the Senate. Brady said the GOP will "fight to hold" congressional majorities "so we have a chance" to push tax legislation.

Rep. Kevin Brady
Anjali Sundaram | CNBC

The decision to push for the tax bills now appears at least partly motivated by politics ahead of the midterms. Voters have not latched on to the GOP tax overhaul passed in December the way the GOP hoped.

Democrats have bashed it on the campaign trail. They contend it helps the wealthy and corporations more than working families and warn it could lead to Republicans trimming back social safety-net programs in order to make up for reduced tax revenue.

The latest bills would make the individual cuts passed last year permanent. It would also aim to encourage more retirement savings and the formation of small businesses. Brady's committee already approved the three separate measures making up the second phase of tax reform.

The proposal to extend household cuts beyond the planned 2025 expiration date, in particular, could put pressure on Democrats who argue the middle class got shafted last year.

It is unclear now whether Republicans could get nine Democrats to join them to garner the 60 votes needed to pass tax legislation in the Senate. The GOP currently holds a 51-49 majority in the chamber, which could change after November depending on how the elections go.

President Donald Trump's top economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, also said he doubts Congress will pass the tax bills before the midterms.

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