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Senate vote sets up potentially difficult talks on differing tax reform measures

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Senate vote sets up potentially difficult talks on differing tax reform measures

The U.S. Senate voted on party lines, 51-47, to send its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to a conference committee, setting the stage for a complex set of negotiations aimed at melding the bill with the tax reform package approved by the House of Representatives.

The House voted to send its plan to conference Dec. 4. House Republicans have publicly listed their conferees, including several members of the Ways and Means committee from which the plan originated.

The House and Senate measures include different individual rate brackets and differ on a variety of other provisions, with the Senate bill repealing the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate while retaining the alternative minimum tax. The Senate must follow the Byrd rule, a procedural measure that limits what legislation can pass the Senate via reconciliation, which only requires a simple majority of votes to clear the chamber.

Democratic aides to the Senate Finance Committee told reporters that their technical staffers will be "paying close attention" to how the conference report handles the Byrd rule. The Byrd rule stipulates that bills cannot increase the deficit in a 10-year budget window, which would cause various provisions in the Senate bill to expire during that time.

"The same process that we had on the floor with being able to Byrd out provisions that weren't germane to the bill will also take place with conference report language," one aide said.

The aides said it is too early to tell what the official game plan for the conference committee will look like, given that the Senate conferees have not yet been named and the committee has yet to schedule its first session.

The House originally passed its bill in a vote held before Thanksgiving, while the Senate passed its package in the early morning hours of Dec. 2, on a 51-49 vote, with Republican Sen. Bob Corker voting against the bill due to deficit concerns, along with 'no' votes from all the chamber's Democrats.

A handful of House Republicans from high-tax states voted against the bill because of its treatment of state and local tax deductions.