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Josh Hawley

Sinema, Hawley, Young quietly working to get tax bill to 60 votes

News: A group of senators is informally working behind the scenes to secure enough votes to pass the Wyden-Smith tax bill.

The group includes Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.), all of whom support the tax package and are trying to overcome an intense pressure campaign from Senate GOP leaders who want to see the bill defeated.

At the center of the talks is Hawley’s push to include his Senate-approved legislation that reauthorizes a radiation compensation program. Other potential changes are being considered as well. Some of these were discussed during a call between Hawley’s office and a dozen trade organizations on Monday, according to a source familiar with the call.

The senators hope to show Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer they can bring along enough votes for passage. Last week, Schumer said he’d take up the tax bill if the votes were there, but there haven’t been enough public GOP backers so far.

This push is far from a slam dunk. Supporters of the Smith-Wyden tax bill have been trying to do whatever they can to find traction with Senate Republicans, but the outlook is extremely dim with tax filing season over — not to mention the all-out offensive from GOP leaders.

Here are some of the challenges the proponents face:

Senate Finance Committee top Republican Sen. Mike Crapo (Idaho) supports Hawley’s bill, RECA, but said adding it doesn’t solve problems with the tax bill.

It’s not clear that RECA would do the combined package any favors in the House. Speaker Mike Johnson hasn’t made any moves yet on the Senate-passed RECA reauthorization bill, and many conservatives don’t like the bill in part because of the price tag.

Werfel’s trip to the Hill: IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel will appear at the Senate Finance Committee this morning, and we’ve got your sneak peek at his message to senators.

In his written testimony, Werfel repeatedly points to the $60 billion in IRS funding from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act as enabling the agency’s improvements critical to future projects, according to a copy of his remarks we obtained. Read it in full here.

“Going into the final days of tax season, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding has enabled the IRS to have one of its best filing seasons ever in terms of customer service,” Werfel says.

But don’t expect that to impress GOP senators. We expect them to slam the IRA funding anyway.

Direct File: Another topic that’ll draw attention at the hearing is the IRS pilot of a free, online tax filing system. In his testimony, Werfel says the IRS saw “an extremely successful filing season” giving taxpayers a range of options for doing their taxes, including the government-run tool.

The GOP has been critical of Direct File. Crapo plans to argue that the program is a “redundant government-run tax preparation project, complete with all attendant inefficiencies and conflicts-of-interest” that demands more oversight, according to excerpts of his opening remarks for the hearing.

Punchbowl News Premium subscribers got the news of Werfel’s testimony first in a text Monday evening. Learn more about subscribing here.

— Laura Weiss and Andrew Desiderio

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