WASHINGTON (CNN) - Top tax and policy staffers from both the House and the Senate met at various points Wednesday as the process of crafting a final bill picked up speed.
That will continue Thursday. Both chambers now officially have their conferees, but as has been the case for days, the real work is being done behind the scenes right now.
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What to watch today
Keep an eye on any new shifts leaking out of the closed door negotiations Listen to what the conferees say -- all, for the most part, have been involved in the process for months, but they've now got a coveted seat at the table. Any unusual demands or "red lines," unexpected as they may be, would be noteworthy.
House Republicans are now pushing to vote on the tax conference report by the end of next week. Why? They want to ensure it's decoupled from the end-of-year government spending package out of concern more moderate members could use the bill as leverage for a sweeter deal. The sped up timetable is, at this point, somewhat aspirational, according to several senior aides.
"Obviously if it's ready next week, we'd all like to vote next week," one told CNN.
Reconciling the separate House and Senate-passed bills, while aides in both chambers say it's only a matter of time, takes time. But if it's possible, don't be surprised if the process starts to move very quickly next week. There's certainly incentive for leaders in both chambers to create space between the tax bill and the spending package. It's just a matter of whether it's in the realm of possibility.
President Donald Trump off-handedly mentioned that the corporate rate -- slashed to 20% from 35% in both House and Senate bills -- may end up at 22% while talking to reporters this past weekend. Top Senate and House Republicans quickly tried to shoot that idea down -- particularly in the Senate, keeping the rate at 20% during negotiations was not easy -- and upset a number of Republican senators.
Well, guess what: 22% is now on the table, according to several people involved in the talks. And top Hill Republicans are none-too-pleased that the President put it out there as an option after they'd taken such a hardline stance.
"If he doesn't bring it up, it's last resort. Now some of our guys think it's first resort," one source directly involved in the process told CNN.
The issue, as always, is revenue. Two points on the corporate code adds roughly $200 billion in revenue -- money they desperately need for the fixes, clean ups and compromises they are currently working into the bill.
This is far from a done deal -- Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in particular has publicly stated the number is 20% and it should stay there. But bumping up the rate two points is definitely now in play.
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