SALT LAKE CITY — As Republican leaders push for a vote on a sweeping tax bill, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Wednesday that one of the biggest challenges is cutting through misinformation and "nastier identity politics."
Still, he said Congress is on the cusp of major tax reform for the first time in 31 years.
"We still have a few kinks to work out, but I think we’ll get there before the end of this week," Hatch said.
One of them could be an amendment Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., proposed on child tax credits — a key issue for both to be all-in on the bill. They say the legislation could do better for working families.
"Right now, 70 percent of the tax cuts we’re considering would go to businesses, and only 30 percent to individuals. This amendment would level the playing field for families, while still kick-starting national investment and growth," Lee and Rubio said in a joint statement.
By increasing access to the child tax credit, the bill could increase working family fairness and deliver overdue relief to "America’s greatest investor class: our moms and dads," they said.
The two senators want to make the credit refundable up to payroll tax liability or 15.3 percent of earnings, among other things. They propose raising the corporate income tax rate to 22 percent to fund the changes.
The Senate voted 52-48 along party lines Wednesday to start formal debate on the Republican tax bill, setting the stage for a possible vote later this week. GOP senators say the proposal would boost the economy, provide a middle-class tax cut and increase wages.
Democrats say the proposal would raise taxes on working families earning less than $75,000, cut taxes for the wealthiest corporations and individuals, and add $1.4 trillion to the national debt over the next decade.
Utah House Democrats urged Hatch and Lee in a letter Wednesday to not support the current plan, saying it runs counter to the values of Utahns.
"To argue that this tax reform bill is anything other than a reckless giveaway to the rich is misleading and disgraceful," Utah Democrats wrote.
Hatch has taken exception — sometimes vehemently — the past two weeks to Democrats saying the GOP plan looks out for the rich.
"That is the biggest pile of b.s. I've ever seen in my life," Hatch said on KSL Newsradio's "The Doug Wright Show."
Recalling that he grew up in a "shack" and worked as janitor in college at BYU, the seven-term senator said he has fought for the "little guy" his entire career.
"I was the original little guy," Hatch said.
"This country gave me an opportunity," he said. "I want our tax system to do the same for others facing those same circumstances."
A family of four making$73,000 a year would see their taxes go down by more than $2,000 a year under the bill, Hatch said on the Senate floor. A single parent earning $41,000 would see a $1,400 yearly tax reduction, he said.
"Now, that's real money for these families," he said. "It will help them make car payments, pay their rent or mortgages, bring down credit card balances or increase their ability to save for the future."16 comments on this story
Hatch said he shares some GOP senators' concerns about how the proposal would impact the national debt. He said there are two schools of thought on paying down the deficit: raising taxes on the wealthy, which would "barely make a dent"; or investing in the middle class and in the markets to spur the economy.
"We believe this plan will mostly pay for itself with economic growth and reforms that broaden the base by eliminating a number of special interest tax breaks," Hatch said.
Should the Senate pass its version of tax reform, it would have to reconcile the plan with the previously approved House bill. Hatch said he hopes that can be done before Christmas.