Reconciliation is a parliamentary vehicle linked with the budget and designed to achieve specific revenue and spending requirements. This is the preferred approach for certain policy objectives because only 51 votes are required for passage in the Senate. Republicans plan to use this process for tax reform. There’s one concern: This was the same approach attempted for ObamaCare repeal.
In January, Congress passed a budget with reconciliation instructions for fiscal 2017. The House Freedom Caucus and Republicans across the country believed the legislation to address ObamaCare would be the same as the bill that passed both chambers in 2015 with only one Republican “no” vote. Everyone assumed we would send the same bill to President Trump that we put on President Obama’s desk.
But that’s not what happened. After the budget passed, first we got secrecy. Remember Sen. Rand Paul, searching the Capitol for the hidden bill? When it turned up, it wasn’t clean repeal. It wasn’t what Congress had passed in 2015. It wasn’t what we promised the voters.
Members were told we couldn’t change the legislation — no real amendment process, no witness testimony. Take it or leave it, we were told —“it’s a binary choice!”
After intense debate, the Freedom Caucus did change the bill, and all but two of our members supported the much-improved version that passed the House but still sits in the Senate.
Now comes tax reform, and the same play is being run again. The Freedom Caucus has been told: Don’t introduce your tax reform. Wait for ours. But we won’t show it to you until you vote for the 2018 budget.
If a car salesman shows you a picture of a car and demands a nonrefundable down payment, you’d probably say, “Wait a minute. I’ve got a few questions. What’s the model year? What’s the car’s condition? How many miles are on it?” You might even ask to see the car. That’s the situation we face with tax reform — except we haven’t even seen a picture.
The House Freedom Caucus will gladly start the process if we are confident the tax plan will actually cut taxes for families, simplify the code and create jobs. We will gladly pass the budget when basic questions are answered: What are the personal rates? What’s the corporate rate? What’s the repatriation rate? How are small businesses treated?
The biggest question: Why the secrecy? Congress has been in session almost nine months. The NFL can play an entire season and half another in that time. The Indians could have ten streaks of 22 wins in that time. Why the reluctance to show the American people the plan? Is the bill being written behind closed doors because it will only help the connected class and their high-paid consultants? Is it being hidden away only to be rolled out at the last minute when members will be told again to take it or leave it, it’s a binary choice?
The House Freedom Caucus wants government to operate on a budget, preferably a balanced one. We want to cut taxes and reform our broken tax code. Show us a plan that allows families to keep more of their money and one that grows our economy, and we will gladly vote to pass a budget.
This op-ed was co-authored by Congressmen Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows. A version of it originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Sept. 20.