KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Senate Republicans put out their version of a plan to overhaul the U.S. tax code today. It leaves in place some of the most popular tax breaks that the House wants to either get rid of or roll back. At the same time, the House Ways and Means Committee has approved the House Republican tax overhaul bill. There is a deadline here that has been set by President Trump. He wants a tax overhaul done by Christmas.
NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell is following all of this and joins us from Capitol Hill. Hello.
KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi.
MCEVERS: So both Republican tax plans have big cuts for corporations and individuals. But when it comes to the details, what are the differences between the two?
SNELL: Yeah, as you said, the Senate leaves intact some of the most popular tax breaks the House is looking to roll back. We're looking at things like the mortgage interest deduction, the deduction for student loan interest and for medical expenses. But it does fully eliminate deductions for taxes paid to state and local governments that - you know, the House kept some parts of that intact. It's important to note that it's possible fewer people would take those deductions because the Senate bill, like the House bill, doubles the standard deduction that most taxpayers take. That means some people who itemize their taxes now could choose not to do that in the future.
And the Senate plan would also not eliminate the estate tax, which is a big selling point for Republicans in the House. Instead, it increases the number of people who would be exempt from the tax. The House Republicans aim to simplify the process of filing taxes by cutting the number of brackets from seven to three. Now, the Senate plan would keep the seven brackets, but they would change the rates, and including dropping the top rate from 39.6 to 38.5.
MCEVERS: Today, White House economic adviser Gary Cohn told CNBC that CEOs are the people who are most excited about these Republican tax plans. So what would these bills do for corporate America?
SNELL: Yeah, the biggest thing they're excited about is that both Republican plans would cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. That's a really big cut and would help the bottom line for a lot of companies. The Senate plan would delay that cut for about a year, but after that the proposals would make the tax cut permanent.
MCEVERS: So if House Republicans are hoping to pass their bill next week, what about the Senate? How quickly could they move?
SNELL: Next week will be very busy for taxes in Congress. The Senate Finance Committee begins considering their bill early next week. Chairman Orrin Hatch was talking to reporters this morning, and he said the process would begin with people battling it out in his committee. And then you're also going to be seeing the House moving on to voting on their bill. Their committee finished it earlier today, and they're all set. The majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, said they would be getting voting next week.
And talking to several senators and people in leadership, they say they can't guarantee a timeline for a full Senate vote, but it could come up the week after Thanksgiving. They would then only have two weeks to merge those two plans and, you know, work out some of the big differences that they would need to get done in order to pass the bill by Christmas, which is the deadline set by President Trump. Oh, and don't forget; during that time they also have to pass a bill to keep the government open.
MCEVERS: Well, OK. So how was this tax plan received by senators today?
SNELL: Republicans were fairly reserved in their response to the bill, but they all agree that they want to get a tax bill passed by the end of the year. Here's what Texas Senator Ted Cruz had to say.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
TED CRUZ: This is an ongoing discussion. I think we are making steady and positive progress. I believe we have to get this done, and I think we will get it done.
SNELL: Democrats aren't sold on this bill, and it's unlikely that any of them will vote for it. But we know President Trump is trying to talk to them and trying to win their support.
MCEVERS: And while all this was happening allegations surfaced against Roy Moore. He's the Republican candidate in the special Senate election in Alabama. He has been accused by a woman of initiating sexual contact when she was 14 years old and he was 32. Moore has denied this allegation. But what has been the reaction on Capitol Hill to this?
SNELL: Well, many of the Republicans I spoke to or who have made statements publicly this afternoon said that if the allegations are true, Moore should step aside and allow a state Republican Party to pick a new candidate. Here's what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had to say.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MITCH MCCONNELL: If these allegations are true, Roy Moore should step aside for all the obvious reasons. These are very disturbing allegations.
SNELL: The complication is Alabama law says you can't remove a candidate from the ballot less than 76 days before an election, and this special election is just over a month away.
MCEVERS: NPR's Kelsey Snell on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.
SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.