Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, confers with an aide as tax bill conferees gather to work on the sweeping GOP plan, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Latest: Church-politics provision removed from tax bill

December 14, 2017 - 10:41 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the Republican tax overhaul (all times local):

10:30 p.m.

A Democratic senator taking part in talks on the GOP tax package says a provision allowing churches to endorse political candidates and still keep their tax-free status won't be in the final bill.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden has released a statement announcing the decision by the House-Senate committee that's blending the two separate tax bills into a final package. Democrats had pushed for the move.

The tax bill passed by the House calls for repeal of the Johnson Amendment, a law that bans tax-exempt charitable organizations such as churches from participating directly or indirectly in any political campaign or supporting a candidate. Repeal wasn't included in the Senate version of the bill.


8:45 p.m.

The Republicans' razor-thin margin for driving their sweeping tax package through the Senate has been jeopardized by Florida's Marco Rubio, who says he will vote against it unless negotiators expand the tax credit that low-income Americans can claim for their children.

Rubio's potential defection complicates Republican leaders' goal of muscling the $1.5 trillion bill through Congress next week.

Senate Republicans could still pass the package without Rubio's vote, but they would be cutting it extremely close. An original version was approved by only 51-49 — with Rubio's support.

The co-sponsor of Rubio's proposed change, Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, is undecided on the overall bill and pushing to make the credit as generous as possible.


2:25 p.m.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio says he's a "no" vote on the sweeping tax package — unless the child tax credit is more generous to low-income families.

The bill would expand the child tax credit to $2,000 from $1,000. The Florida lawmaker wants a further expansion, and his opposition undercuts Republican leaders trying to muscle the tax bill through the Senate next week.

In a conversation with reporters, Rubio did not specify how high he wants the credit to go.

House and Senate leaders have agreed on the bill in principle but are still finalizing the legislation that they plan to unveil Friday.

A spokesman says Republican Mike Lee is another senator who is undecided on the bill.


12:25 p.m.

The sweeping tax overhaul in Congress just got a boost from a key faction of the party. Conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus say they support the package, which is speeding toward votes next week.

Ohio congressman Jim Jordan is a member of the caucus. Jordan says, "I think it's going to pass. I think you're going to see the vast majority of the Freedom Caucus people vote for it."

Caucus leader Mark Meadows of North Carolina says he doesn't see "any alarm bells" in the emerging package.

The Freedom Caucus is a key constituency for House GOP leaders because it has more than 30 members, and a united caucus could kill any bill that lacks Democratic support. Congressional Democrats were shut out from crafting the tax package and have been united against it.


3:43 a.m.

Generous tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans would be delivered in a sweeping overhaul of the tax laws, under a new agreement crafted by Republicans in Congress.

Middle- and low-income families would receive smaller tax cuts, though President Donald Trump and Republican leaders have billed the package as a huge benefit for the middle class. The agreement reached Wednesday by House and Senate GOP leaders also calls for scrapping a major tax requirement of the "Obamacare" health law, a step toward the ultimate GOP goal of unraveling the law.

The agreement combines key elements of separate tax bills recently passed by the House and Senate, striking compromises on some of them. The Republicans are pushing to deliver final legislation to Trump before Christmas as the first major legislative accomplishment of his presidency.

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