We’re Standing at the Doorstep of History
By Sen. John Thune
The term “historic” is a bit of a relative term, I suppose. In most cases, it’s in the eye of the beholder. “History,” on the other hand, is far more finite. It either is or it isn’t. All of the actions we take in Congress eventually become part of history, and many of them, to one degree or another, are historic. With Congress poised to pass the first major tax reform legislation in more than three decades, I believe we’re about to take one of those historic steps that will mark a critical point in America’s history, and I’m excited about what it means for South Dakotans.
The idea of reforming the U.S. tax code is not new. Since I joined the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee in 2011, we’ve held nearly 70 hearings on tax-related issues. In 2015, I chaired one of the Finance Committee’s bipartisan working groups that made recommendations on how to reform the tax code. When the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was in the Finance Committee, we spent nearly 24 hours over several days debating and voting on 63 Democrat amendments to the bill. We spent nearly an entire legislative week debating the bill on the Senate floor, considering amendments and motions from Republicans and Democrats. I’m proud that this process has been open and that it followed regular order.
Is the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act perfect? No, it’s not. But in my experience in Congress, the legislative process very rarely, if ever, yields a perfect outcome. Whether we like it or not, that’s how our democracy works. The bill does, however, represent some of the best ideas we’ve considered over the years, and it would go a long way in providing relief to low- and middle-income Americans throughout the country.
The Senate bill would double the standard deduction, which would expand the “zero tax bracket” for low-income Americans and significantly reduce the tax burden for other filers. It would double the child tax credit – welcome news for families that are struggling to make ends meet – and it would cut taxes for taxpayers in all income groups. The bill also makes important reforms to the business side of the tax code that would spur economic growth and create more opportunities for American job creators and their employees.
The House and Senate have both passed tax reform bills that reflect the same broad principles I’ve just described. It’s now time for the two chambers to negotiate a final bill that we can pass and send to the president. I’m humbled to have been selected as one of only a handful of members to help merge the two bills and, by doing so, get us closer to the finish line. I’m looking forward to the work that’s ahead.
Hours before the Senate passed its bill on December 2, I went to the Senate floor to share some thoughts with my colleagues, and I think there are a few points worth repeating. America may have been through a rough patch lately, but she is coming back stronger than ever. America led the world in the 20th century, and this tax bill makes it clear that she is going to do the same in the 21st century. I was reminded of Ronald Reagan’s presidential ad quoting that it was morning in America again. It may not be morning yet, but the dawn is peaking over the horizon.