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Sen. Mike Crapo

Crapo’s sphinx-like approach to the tax bill

Tax deal drama is boiling over in the Senate. Tensions are escalating over Senate Finance Committee ranking member Mike Crapo’s (R-Idaho) continued opposition to the bipartisan $80 billion package passed by the House, even as interest bubbles up from his GOP colleagues.

Part of that frustration stems from the role Crapo played during the months of negotiations, when he was often in the room. The Idaho Republican didn’t just sit there idly. Crapo helped shape aspects of the deal, according to multiple sources, even if it was unclear whether he would support the end product.

There was hope Crapo would be won over. He wasn’t, and that’s led to worry that Crapo could be trying to slow-walk the deal until time runs out, effectively killing it. This concern is growing because backers see the Senate as winnable after a huge House vote, but Crapo is only digging in.

One issue being focused on is that during the House-Senate negotiations, Crapo weighed in to limit an aspect of the child tax credit, according to multiple sources.

The tax bill allows families to use their prior-year income to calculate child tax credit benefits in 2024 and 2025, which is a boon if their earnings shrink. Other tax writers were ready to start that provision in 2023, which means benefits would’ve been felt this year.

But Crapo objected and 2023 was taken out in an effort to win him over for what ultimately became the bicameral deal struck by Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith (R-Mo.), according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

No dice: Crapo told us Thursday that change wasn’t enough to get his support, and he wants to go further. His spokesperson, Amanda Critchfield, denied Crapo ever sought the change in question. “To be clear, any narrative that Senator Crapo or his staff signed off on including the lookback provision is factually inaccurate — staff requested that it be removed entirely,” she said.

Yet any changes made now would likely sink the package. And no one seems to know exactly what Crapo needs to get to yes. Some believe Crapo wants to wait to strike his own deal next year when Senate Republicans could be in the majority.

The Senate doesn’t necessarily need Crapo’s support to pass this tax bill, but it would certainly improve its chances. It would also signal that there is a greater chance for bipartisan dealmaking in the Senate next year when the 2017 Trump tax cuts expire and a far bigger negotiation looms.

Crapo has maintained that he’s gettable. But patience is wearing thin with his efforts to slow down the process. There’s concern over the lack of a realistic plan to offer changes that would still keep the deal alive.

“There were parts of the bill that needed to be fixed to get my support, and there was not an agreement to fix them,” Crapo said, of why he didn’t get on board in January and remains opposed. “The bottom line is that Ron and Jason went forward.”

— Laura Weiss

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