UPDATE: Meadows has pushed back on this report, saying it doesn't reflect his comments accurately. Below is the exact transcript of what he said to IJR Friday morning, given several opportunities to clarify his position:
Byrd: I think it was in May, I asked you if you think you're going to get tax reform done this year.
Meadows: Yep. I’m still confident that it’ll be done by Thanksgiving. I think that's what I shared with you, by Thanksgiving. I still think it will get done by then.
Byrd: So at what point do you expect to pass a budget resolution?
Meadows: Within a week of voting the tax reform package out of the House.
Byrd: Wait, the budget resolution?
Meadows: Yeah. I mean, why do you need a budget resolution unless you understand what you’re going to do on taxes?
Byrd: Is that possible procedurally if you’re using reconciliation? Don’t you have to get a resolution done before doing a tax bill?
Meadows: No. Just before it goes to the Senate.
Meadows: So, we can send it over. I mean, If they vote it out of committee and everybody's in agreement, you can pass the budget, attach it, and send it over. They would have to have a budget on their side. And they’re not planning to do a budget until the end of October at the earliest, so I don’t know why there’s a huge push for us to do it now.
The story follows.
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told Independent Journal Review in an interview Friday morning that the House shouldn't vote on a budget resolution until after it passes a tax reform bill.
When IJR asked when he expects the House to pass the budget resolution in order to move on to tax reform, Meadows answered, “Within a week of voting the tax reform package out of the House.”
There's one issue: Conventional wisdom on Capitol Hill dictates a budget resolution is required as the first step for reconciliation. Republicans want to use reconciliation for their tax reform bill because the budget procedure makes it easier to pass a bill in the Senate by lowering the threshold for passage from 60 votes to a simple majority.
Meadows and his group of about three-dozen hardline conservatives have withheld their support from the GOP budget resolution since it was unveiled, arguing they wouldn't vote in favor of it until they knew more details of the still-forming tax bill.
Meadows's comments Friday morning indicate some members may want more: a House vote on the tax reform bill before passing a budget.
House Freedom Caucus spokeswoman Alyssa Farah responded to Meadows's comments Friday afternoon, saying nothing about the group's position had changed:
“The Freedom Caucus’ position remains that the group is willing and eager to support a budget to advance tax reform as soon as they’ve seen the specifics of the Republican tax bill. Our members have said that on the record numerous times. Nothing has changed on that or on the timeline.”
There's disagreement over whether Meadows's suggestion is even possible.
A GOP aide involved in the budget process pushed back on Meadows's suggestion. “In order for reconciliation bills to be acted on, there has to be a conferenced budget passed by both the House and the Senate," the aide said.
And Josh Holmes, former chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), disputed the concept on Twitter:
But, asked if Republicans need to pass a budget resolution before proceeding to tax reform, Meadows shook his head. “No. Just before [tax reform] goes to the Senate.”
In order for Meadows's plan to work, Republicans would have to:
- Pass their tax bill under regular order in the House.
- Pass a conferenced budget resolution in the House and in the Senate.
- Pass the text of the tax bill under reconciliation in the Senate.
- Vote on the tax bill again (under reconciliation this time) in the House.
“Why do you need a budget resolution unless you understand what you're going to do on taxes?” Meadows asked.
Whether the idea would work — especially in the slim time frame Republicans have left to enact a tax reform bill before the end of the year — is unclear. It is evident, however, that using such a procedure would venture into murky waters Congress hasn't navigated before.
This post was updated with a statement from House Freedom Caucus spokeswoman Alyssa Farah and a full transcript of IJR's conversation with Meadows after publication.