US Rep. Richard Neal among lawmakers tasked with reconciling House and Senate tax bills
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, is one of a handful of congressional lawmakers named to a bipartisan, bicameral panel charged with hammering out the final version of tax overhaul legislation.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced this week that the Massachusetts congressman would be among five chamber Democrats to serve as a conferee for the tax overhaul plans.
Neal, the top Democrat on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, said he was "happy to have been chosen" to sit on the conference panel, despite his concerns about the bills as passed by both chambers.
"The legislation puts the wealthy and well-connected first, while forcing 36 million middle-class families to watch as their taxes go up. That's simply not what the American people asked us to do and it is not something that I can support," he said in a statement."This should have been a debate that included both parties. I have been ready and willing to work with my Republican counterparts on this issue from the start and I look forward to doing so in the coming days."
Aside from Neal, Pelosi also named House Ways and Means Committee members U.S. Reps. Sander Levin, D-Michigan; and Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas; Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona; and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Florida, to the conference committee.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, in turn, named House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas; and panel members U.S. Reps. Devin Nunes, R-California; Peter Roskam, R-Illinois; Diane Black, R-Tennessee; and Kristi Noem, R-South Dakota, to serve as conferees.
Other House Republicans named to the conference panel include: Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah; and member Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska; and Energy and Commerce Committee members U.S. Reps. Fred Upton, R-Michigan; and John Shimkus, R-Illinois.
Pelosi urged Republicans to use the panel to "abandon this monstrous bill and join Democrats to enact real tax reform that puts the middle class first."
"The American people deserve better than this trickle-down product of carelessness and cruelty," she said in a statement. "Hard-working men and women in every corner of the country will hold Republicans accountable if they do not walk away from this disastrous vote to raise taxes on their own constituents."
Senate Republican and Democratic leaders are expected to soon announce their conferees to sit on the panel tasked with reconciling the two versions of the tax legislation.
The House voted along party lines last month to pass legislation that would cut the income tax brackets for individuals down to just four: 12 percent, 25 percent, 35 percent and 39.6 percent; roughly doubling the standard deduction to $24,000 for joint filers and surviving spouses and $12,000 for individual filers; and eliminating so-called "special interest" deductions, among other things.
The Senate, meanwhile, approved its own nearly $1.5 trillion tax overhaul bill on Saturday that would: drop the highest personal income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 38.5 percent, nearly double the standard deduction, essentially end the coverage mandate included in the Affordable Care Act and allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The conference committee must sort out differences between the two bills before a final version can be approved and sent to President Donald Trump's desk.