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Tax reform conferees named. Let the tax mixing begin!

Capitol_Senate side_by Scrumshus via Citypeek-Wikipedia

The House and Senate have officially agreed to hash out their respective tax reform differences.

Both chambers passed their own versions of H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Rather than one side accepting the other's bill, they now must come up with a new piece of legislation that incorporates some parts of both.

That job falls to 14 Senators and 15 Representatives selected by their Party's leadership.

Let's get this tax negotiation party started!

House conferees: On the House side, Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin selected nine GOP Representatives. They are:

  • Kevin Brady of Texas (chair of the House Ways and Means Committee),
  • Diane Black of Tennessee (chair of the House Budget Committee and member of Ways and Means),
  • Greg Walden of Oregon (chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee),
  • Rob Bishop of Utah (chair of the Natural Resources Committee),
  • Don Young of Alaska,
  • John Shimkus of Illinois
  • Devin Nunes of California,
  • Peter Roskam of Illinois and
  • Kristi Noem of South Dakota.

Nunes, Roskam and Noem also are Ways and Means members.

On the other side of the aisle, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California selected five Democrats:

  • Richard Neal of Massachusetts (ranking Ways and Means member),
  • Sandy Levin of Michigan,
  • Lloyd Doggett of Texas,
  • Raúl Grijalva of Arizona and
  • Kathy Castor of Florida.

Levin and Doggett also sit on the House's tax-writing Ways and Means panel.

Senate conferees: Across Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky named the following eight Republicans:

  • Orrin Hatch of Utah (chair of the Senate Finance Committee),
  • Mike Enzi of Wyoming (chair of the Senate Budget Committee),
  • Lisa Murkowski of Alaska (chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee),
  • John Cornyn of Texas,
  • John Thune of South Dakota
  • Rob Portman of Ohio,
  • Tim Scott of South Carolina, and
  • Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Those last five GOP conferees all are members of the tax-writing Finance Committee. Cornyn and Thune also are, respectively, the second and third ranking Republicans in the Senate.

On the Democratic side, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York selected the following seven Senators to represent the Democrat's tax views:

  • Ron Wyden of Oregon (ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee)
  • Bernie Sanders of Vermont (an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats and ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee),
  • Maria Cantwell of Washington (ranking member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and also a Finance Committee member),
  • Debbie Stabenow of Michigan,
  • Robert Menendez of New Jersey,
  • Tom Carper of Delaware, and
  • Patty Murray of Washington.

Stabenow, Menendez and Carper sit on the Finance Committee. Murray is a Budget Committee member.

Pre-Christmas goal: These 29 Senators and Representatives are looking at a self-imposed Dec. 22 deadline so that they and Capitol Hill staff can get out of Washington, D.C., and back home in time for the holidays and end-of-year celebrations.

Is that enough time to come up with a version of ostensible tax reform that will satisfy the majority of their colleagues?

The GOP is hopeful. And while the bills are similar, there still are some major sticking points.

And resolving them won't be quite as easy as the current commander in chief apparently thinks.

Mixing up a tax bill: Those of us of a certain age remember Schoolhouse Rock's animated explanation of how a bill becomes a law.

Maybe Donald J. Trump was a bit too old to watch that simplified civics lesson sandwiched between Saturday cartoons back in the day.

Instead, Trump has referred to the bill creation process, at least at the conference stage, as a mixer, as in the kitchen appliance used to blend ingredients.

Maybe Trump was just hungry when he came up with that analogy, but it's not that simple.

KPMG tax experts during a recent tax reform update webcast offered this gameboard-like path to tax reform. Right now, we're at the Joint Conference square at the bottom right of the board, I mean legislative process.

As for that conference — not mixing — process, David Hawkings, senior editor at Roll Call newspaper, has an instructive whiteboard presentation on how two bills become one law.

How conference committees work_Roll Call David Hawkings whiteboard video
Roll Call senior editor David Hawkings explains the various means Congress has used to reconcile disagreements between House and Senate versions of a bill. Click screenshot to watch the full video.

As Hawkings notes, during conference much of the work typically happens behind closed doors. It also often is done, at least in early stages, in negotiations between leadership and committee staff.

But as soon as the conferees come up with a recipe that can be baked into a politically palatable tax bill, I'll let you know.

Now, with all that food mixing imagery in my head, I'm off to grab a late-afternoon snack!

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