Enzi tax

U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., is pictured signing the conference report on the final tax reform bill Friday, Dec. 15 in Washington, D.C.

Wyoming’s two U.S. senators both insisted on delaying a vote on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee for roughly one year, until after a new president was elected last year. But Sen. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi say there’s no need to delay a vote on the GOP tax bill until newly-elected Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat, is seated.

Democrats are calling on Republicans to hold off voting until Jones is sworn in. While it appears the tax plan would have enough votes to pass regardless of whether Jones is in Congress, a closer margin would give more influence to moderate Republican senators who are sympathetic to some Democratic concerns about the legislation.

“Senator Enzi believes the Senate has a lot to do and should continue its work as it normally would,” spokeswoman Max D’Onofrio said in an email. “During a traditional election year, Congress doesn’t stop its work in November.”

But Enzi opposed holding a vote on Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, before a new president was elected.

“The presidential election was an opportunity for the American people to have a say in who chooses the next Supreme Court justice,” Enzi said in the press release following the confirmation of President Donald Trump’s supreme court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, last spring.

Barrasso, too, argued that the Senate needed to wait until after the presidential election to vote on a supreme court pick. But he believes there is no need to hold off voting on the tax legislation.

“We are on the same timeline we’ve always been on – the end of the year – to deliver relief to taxpayers starting in the new year,” Barrasso said in a statement.

While Barrasso spokeswoman Laura Mengelkamp did not address the senator’s opposition to a Supreme Court vote before last year’s presidential election, she did argue that the circumstances surrounding the tax bill were different than the Affordable Care Act.

Barrasso has previously criticized the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 as rushed and unfair. But following a Senate special election in Massachusetts in which the Democrats lost their super-majority, Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that final votes on the health care bill would not take place until the new Republican senator was seated.

“Bottom line: Brown won in large part because of Obamacare,” Mengelkamp said in an email. “Jones’ election had very little to do with tax.”

Jones beat Republican candidate Roy Moore in what was supposed to be a safe Republican seat following a campaign rocked by accusations that Moore had molested teenage girls when he was in his 30s.

Plan settled on

Wyoming’s all-Republican congressional delegation has strongly backed the GOP tax plan, a final version of which was unveiled late Friday along with announcements of support from previously reluctant senators that all but guarantee approval next week, in time to give President Donald Trump the Christmas legislative triumph he’s been aching for.

The legislation would slash tax rates for big business and lower levies on the richest Americans in a massive $1.5 trillion bill that the GOP plans to muscle through Congress next week. Benefits for most other taxpayers would be smaller.

According to a summary of the measure circulating among lobbyists, today’s 35 percent rate on corporations would fall to 21 percent, the crown jewel of the measure for many Republicans. Trump and GOP leaders had set 20 percent as their goal, but added a point to free money for other tax cuts and that won over wavering lawmakers in final talks.

It’s the widest-ranging reshaping of the tax code in three decades and is expected to add to the nation’s $20 trillion debt. The debt is expected to soar by at least $1 trillion more than it would without the tax measure, according to projections.

Democrats are expected to oppose the legislation unanimously.

The bill would drop today’s 39.6 percent top rate on individuals to 37 percent. The standard deduction — used by around two-thirds of households — would be nearly doubled.

Those who itemize their taxes face mixed results. The $1,000 per child tax deduction would grow to $2,000, with up to $1,400 available in IRS refunds for families who owe little or no taxes.

But the deduction that millions use in connection with state and local income, property and sales taxes would be capped at $10,000. Deductions for medical expenses that lawmakers once considered eliminating would be retained.

The benefits for individuals would expire at the end of the current 10-year budget cycle, but the tax cuts for corporations would be permanent.

Polls show the plan is deeply unpopular among Americans, including Republicans.

Wyoming impact

In Wyoming, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimated that under the plan, 66,800 residents would pay more income tax in 2027 than they do today. About 71 percent of the tax cuts in the bill would go to the richest 1 percent of Wyoming residents, who would pay $180,000 less annually while the bottom 80 percent of the state’s population would receive cuts of $100 to $1,000, according to an ITEP estimate from earlier this year.

Enzi, who served on the committee that reconciled the House and Senate versions of the legislation, hailed the final version of the tax bill in a press release Friday.

“After years of tax reform debate and months of negotiating, Congress is closer than ever to passing meaningful tax reform that will let folks in Wyoming and across the country keep more of their hard-earned money,” Enzi said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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State Politics Reporter

Arno Rosenfeld covers state politics including the Legislature and Wyoming’s D.C. delegation, focusing especially on the major issues facing the Cowboy State like economic diversification and what it means to be the most conservative state in the nation.

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