A chief architect of the 2017 tax cuts said Democrats’ multitrillion-dollar tax and spending package is the “most dangerous” he has seen during his more than two decades in Congress.
Rep. Kevin Brady, the ranking member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, told the Washington Examiner that he has been working tooth and nail to fight the proposed $3.5 trillion legislative behemoth, which he said dwarfs spending battles of the past. He lamented the proposal as “tragic.”
“Boy, I think it’s the most dangerous tax and spending package I have experienced in 25 years in Congress,” Brady said. “This is Godzilla, every other spending package was a horse. This just swamps anything that’s ever been done.”
Brady said he fears the spending package is going to “hook a lot of Americans into government dependency.”
The package includes a wide menu of tax hikes. The proposed legislation would raise the top marginal tax rate, expand the capital gains tax, raise the corporate tax rate, and impose a 3% surtax on high-earning individuals, among other changes. The tax hikes are intended to pay for a sprawling set of social, climate, and infrastructure programs that are anticipated to be jammed through Congress using a budgetary process that avoids needing a single GOP vote.
“Never has our government wasted so much money to kill so many American jobs,” Brady said.
The package, known as the Build Back Better Act, is a signature piece of legislation for President Joe Biden, who has been pushing for the sprawling set of initiatives that he argues will revitalize the economy and help the poor while addressing climate change and infrastructure goals.
Several Democratic-led committees advanced pieces of the legislation through the House this week through the markup process as Republicans resisted.
Republican lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee, which Brady used to lead, offered up amendments to the legislation during a four-day markup process. None of the dozens of amendments — many of which would have effectively invalidated Democratic spending and tax goals — passed through the committee.
Some of the amendments are related to the SALT cap.
A notable absence from the Democratic committee markup phase were plans to raise or remove the cap on federal tax deductions for paid state and local taxes, a move that would result in tax cuts for the wealthy. While changes to the cap could still come before the package comes to the floor for a vote, Republicans sought to block that through their failed amendments.
For example, one GOP amendment would have made permanent the SALT deduction cap and extended the increased standard deduction under the 2017 Republican tax cuts. Another would have also made the cap permanent and increased funding for cancer research.
Some of the new tax measures proposed by Democrats were scaled back from their initial proposals in an effort to appeal to more centrist lawmakers in the party.
The committee voted to raise the capital gains rate for high-income individuals from 20% to 25%, a number that falls well short of the initial pitch to hike the rate by nearly double to 39.6%. They also voted to raise the corporate tax rate to 26.5% from 21%, which is also lower from the White House’s original proposal to raise the corporate tax rate up to 28%.
Despite the lower-than-anticipated increases, Brady balked at the scope of the new hikes. He said that the new corporate tax rate coupled with other changes to international tax structure makes the U.S. less competitive on the global stage.
“It’s an economic surrender to China, Russia, Europe, and Japan and will no doubt cause American jobs to be driven … overseas,” Brady remarked.
Brady also knocked changes to the capital gains rate. While the White House’s first proposal sought to nearly double the rate for those making over $1 million, the level that was approved by Democrats is lower but now applies to those who make more than $400,000. Brady pointed out that while the tax rate is lower it exposes more earners to higher taxes.
“They captured many more Americans in this higher tax rate. That’s going to discourage investment in the local economy all throughout the country,” the congressman said.
Brady predicts there might be more tax changes coming down the pipeline before the multitrillion tax plan is voted on. He said alterations to the SALT cap will “certainly” be added to appease some Democratic lawmakers.
While Republicans argue that removing or raising the cap would amount to tax cuts for the wealthy, lawmakers like Suozzi contend that the current law hurts the middle class and could force the wealthy to sell their homes and move to lower-tax states because of the high taxes.
Another revenue measure that could be added to the final package is a change to step-up in basis. The White House had previously floated eliminating the step-up in basis at death for capital gains above $1 million per person or $2.5 million per couple.
Step-up in basis permits inherited assets to be taxed at the appreciated value of when they were inherited instead of the basis value of when they were first bought. It can allow the appreciation of an asset during of a decedent’s life to go untaxed, although the estate tax may still apply.
Another item that failed to pass through House committees was a proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. Three Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the measure, which the Congressional Budget Office provisions said would cut federal spending by nearly $500 billion over the next decade.
Brady said that because Democrats will have revenue gaps related to SALT and drug pricing to make up for, they will likely work to add even more taxes changes into the mix before the president signs the final piece of legislation.
While Republicans don’t have the power or votes to stop the spending legislation from passing, Brady said that his party has been targeting constituents of centrist Democrats in hopes that they will ratchet up pressure on their lawmakers.
“At the end of the day, Democrats and Democrats alone are the only ones who can stop or mitigate these damaging tax increases,” Brady said.