Budget chairman dismisses rogue amendment to block BAT

House Budget Chairman Diane Black fought off a last-minute attempt Wednesday night to preemptively bar the GOP from considering a border adjustment tax this year.

In the final moments of a 12-hour budget markup, Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) abruptly attempted to offer a poison-pill amendment that would have blocked the contentious tax proposal the Freedom Caucus and other influential conservative groups oppose.

In a six-minute exchange, Black swiftly shot down Sanford’s attempt, contending that the move violated rules that both parties negotiated hours earlier.

The committee then advanced its fiscal 2018 blueprint by a vote of 22-14, with support from every Republican member, even some vocal critics from the Freedom Caucus. The $1.1 trillion nonbinding budget plan is now reported to the House, where it still lacks the votes for passage before the August recess, according to several GOP aides and lawmakers.

Sanford said he was seeking an official assurance that GOP leaders would not include the import tax in their overhaul proposal this year. That policy, which Speaker Paul Ryan has favored, has the potential to be a major source of revenue for the GOP’s plan.

“I’m not saying there’s a guarantee of a BAT going forward, but increasingly, what I’ve seen over the last couple of days, puts it in that direction,” Sanford said. “That puts myself and others on this committee in a bad spot."

The Freedom Caucus had been demanding for weeks that House budget writers add a provision to the budget resolution ruling out BAT in any future tax debates. Black had repeatedly rejected the idea, arguing that the committee’s job was only to provide the fast-track authority for tax reform, not to provide a recipe.

Sanford said he felt “compelled” to offer the amendment after the collapse of the Senate GOP’s health care bill, which would have helped tax-writers start with a lower baseline.

The chairwoman, who appeared visibly agitated, had been privately urging Sanford throughout the day not to offer the amendment, according to GOP sources.

After Black blocked Sanford’s amendment, several Democrats, eager to see GOP members forced into a vote on the tax policy, then intervened.

“Is there any way to add an amendment?” Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) asked, before Democrats failed in an effort to use a procedural mechanism to overrule Black’s decision.

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