Senate faces next step on tax reform | NAFTA talks heating up | Sanders, Cruz to debate tax plan

Notes by Niv Elis

The Senate faces an important test in the coming week when it takes up a budget resolution, a key step to advancing Republicans tax reform plan.

Republicans must pass the budget to unlock reconciliation, a fast-track process that will allow them to avoid a Democratic filibuster on tax reform.

The Senate is expected to pass the budget, but there have been worries across the Capitol, with House Republicans expressing frustration with the upper chamber.

Efforts to repeal ObamaCare faltered in the Senate, and Republicans in the upper chamber have little margin for error.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has already said he intends to vote against the budget and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) is facing health issues.

But many senators who have raised concerns with the tax plan still say they will vote for the budget to allow the process to go forward.

The House passed its budget earlier this month. Once the Senate passes the budget, two chambers will have to conference their bills, sorting out any differences.

The Senate budget allows the tax reform package to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over ten years, but the House package has no such provision, and requires $203 billion in cuts from mandatory spending.

If you’re not sure where you fall on tax reform, two senators will make their case on CNN Wednesday. The network is hosting a town hall debate over taxes between Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

The budget and taxes aren’t the only big issue on the docket in the coming week.

The Senate will also have to decide how much money to put into a new disaster relief bill.

The House passed a $36.5 billion package on Thursday to provide emergency funds for communities hit by recent hurricanes, including Puerto Rico, and the devastating wildfires raging in California.

In a September disaster relief bill immediately after Hurricane Harvey, the Senate doubled the House’s original $7.5 billion, appropriation, providing $15.25 billion. That larger figure was included in the bill making it to President Trump’s desk.

On Tuesday, U.S., Mexican and Canadian officials are expected to provide an update on where negotiations stand after seven days of trade talks aimed at updating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). There are a slew of contentious issues, though, raising concerns about whether negotiators can get a deal by year’s end.

President Trump hosted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday and reiterated his threat to withdraw from the trade pact.

“It’s possible we won’t be able to make a deal and it’s possible that we will,” Trump said.

“But we’ll see if we can do the kind of changes we need.”

Business groups are already ramping up their efforts in defense of the trade deal.

Senators will return from a week-long recess on Monday. The House will be away in the coming week.

What is coming up


Tuesday

Senate Appropriations subcommittees mark up the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, and Homeland Security appropriations bills.

The Senate Banking Committee holds a hearing on “Consumer Data Security and the Credit Bureaus.”


 

Wednesday

CNN hosts a town hall debate on taxes with Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).


Thursday

The Senate Appropriations committee marks up the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, and Homeland Security Appropriations bills.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) speaks at an American Enterprise Institute event on emergency food aid.


Friday

The Brookings Institution hosts an event on Trump’s deregulatory agenda.

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