U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10) continued her support of the bill formerly known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, voting yes twice more to send it to the president’s desk.
The two additional votes were necessary because passages of the bill were discovered to violate Senate procedural rules, requiring a few more minor last-minute revisions. One of those resulted because the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the short name of the bill was out of order.
Congressional Republicans have rushed to get the tax bill passed, using budget reconciliation rules to pass the bill with a simple majority and no Democratic votes. The 494-page bill was only introduced in the House on Nov. 2, and the House began voting on the final version of the bill Tuesday, only days after it emerged from conference committee Dec. 15.
“I think you will see in paychecks by the spring, people are going to be able to see more of their paycheck,” Comstock said.
The previous version Comstock supported had raised concerns across Loudoun and the Northern Virginia region for its impacts on local taxpayers, particularly those who itemize their deductions. That version capped the state and local tax deduction and applied only to property taxes, a provision that let taxpayers avoid being taxed by the federal government on money they had already paid out to state and local governments.
That elicited concerns across the political spectrum on what effect the tax bill would have in high-income, high-tax areas like the Northern Virginia region. House Republicans in New York, New Jersey, and California opposed the bill.
According to the Government Finance Officers Association, in 2015, 49 percent of federal tax filers in the 10th Congressional District claim the SALT deduction, above the national average of around 30 percent. In total, 10th District taxpayers deducted $3.39 billion in state and local taxes.
The final version of the bill retains the state and local tax deduction, but caps it at $10,000, including either sales taxes or property and income taxes.
That still leaves the 10th District coming up short, where the average state and local tax deduction among those who took it in 2015 was $13,562.13.
“Going forward I’d like to move that up, so that will be something I will be working on,” Comstock said of the cap. “And I think in the meantime… when you double the standard deduction, that in itself a lot of people won’t need to itemize anymore.”
The bill provides the biggest benefits to corporations and the very wealthiest people, who would see larger tax cuts than poor and middle-income people. According to analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, in the short term, almost everyone would break even or see a tax cut under the plan. Nationwide, people in the bottom fifth of incomes would see a 0.4 percent average tax cut; people in the top fifth would see a 2.2 percent average tax cut. In 2018, 20 percent of the total benefit of the tax change would go to the top one percent of earners.
“I think you have to look at each family,” Comstock said. “Like the refundability of the Child Tax credit is really designed to help people who are working, with families and children, who you want to reward their work and allow them to keep more of their own money, even to the point where you’re giving them back money for working.
Refundable tax credits refer to tax credits that are permitted to reduce tax liability below zero and result in a tax refund. The final version of the tax bill doubles the Child Tax credit to $2,000 per child and raises the income threshold to qualify for the credit.
Additionally, while the tax cuts for corporations are permanent, most of the tax cuts for people expire in 2025.
“That was the case with the Bush tax cuts, but you know what—we didn’t sunset them,” Comstock said. “We kept most of them in place… I am not going to have any of these things sunset on my watch. If anything I want to make them better.”
According to the Tax Policy Center, in 2025, the top 1 percent of earners will enjoy a quarter of the benefit of the tax changes; in 2027, they will enjoy 83 percent of the benefit.
The center estimates that, compared to current law, 53 percent of taxpayers will be paying higher taxes in 2027.
The bill also increases the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion over next 10 years, according to Congressional Budget Office. If the tax cuts for individuals are not allowed to sunset in 2025, according to the Tax Policy Center, the deficit would grow by $2 trillion.
“I think having strong growth, bringing jobs back here, and then giving families more money in their pockets—I think that is going to be very positive for dealing with the deficit,” Comstock said. “…When you grow the economy, the deficit shrinks as a percent of the economy, and that’s always a key figure.”
Republicans have argued the bill’s provisions will spur faster economic growth and encourage business investment here in the country.
“We compete internationally with people who have corporate rates in the teens, so we are going to lose that business if we don’t change our tax structure,” Comstock said.
Another provision of the bill would repeal the individual mandate of Affordable Care Act, which requires people to purchase insurance or pay a fine. That provision is meant to keep insurance costs from escalating by keeping healthy people paying into the insurance pool alongside less healthy people. A Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act collapsed earlier this year. In that case, Comstock announced her intention to vote against repeal.
In a prepared statement released Tuesday, she pointed to a number of other provisions in the bill, including banning businesses from deducting settlements and fees for sexual harassment cases; maintaining deductions for student loan payments and classroom supplies purchased by teachers, which were both eliminated in the previous version of the House bill; and doubling the current exemption for the estate tax, a tax on passing down estates of $5.6 million or more after a person’s death.
In an interview after the vote, she particularly highlighted for Loudoun maintaining the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives and creating tax incentives for craft brewers, distillers, and wineries for two years, which she said will promote tourism.
This marks the first major piece of legislation to clear Congress since President Donald J. Trump took office in January, despite Republican control of both houses and the White House.
“We want to see families have more economic opportunity, more job opportunities, and be able to keep more of what they earn and be able to invest in the future, invest in their families,” Comstock said.
Sens. Tim Kaine (D) and Mark Warner (D) both voted against the bill.
This article was updated at 5:38 p.m. with comment from an interview with Comstock.