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With tax reform getting slowed by Republican qualms about a proposed import tax, some conservatives and pundits have suggested that the party should just institute a big tax cut and be done with it. But the reality facing the narrow Republican majority in the Senate is not so simple.

Because of Senate rules, if the GOP majorities were to advance tax reform that lost the Treasury money year after year — in other words, a tax cut — they would need to find at least eight Senate Democratic votes. They have already ruled that out. The only other option would be to end the tax cuts after a period of time, the way that the Bush tax cuts were, an unpalatable option for lawmakers who want to create certainty about the tax code this time around.

In other words, simply cutting taxes is not the fallback solution that it might seem to be for Republicans eager to bring tax rates down.

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., for instance, last week criticized the border-adjustment feature of the House Republican tax reform package. Perdue noted that the border adjustment raises revenue, about $1 trillion over 10 years, to fulfill the House GOP goal of ensuring that tax reform does not add to the debt, on paper, with rate cuts offset by a bigger tax base.

In his interview with Yahoo Finance, however, Perdue suggested not worrying about making the numbers add up on paper. “I believe, frankly, we need to trust the free enterprise system,” he said. “I’m less concerned about the scoring of these potential changes than I am the potential good it could do for our economy.”

Yet the obstacle that the upper chamber faces is that, to pass legislation without the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster, they would need to use a special budget procedure known as reconciliation, which entails a number of tricky and limiting rules.

On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell affirmed that the reconciliation process would be the path forward for the GOP, saying at a press conference that “we don’t expect any Democratic cooperation on tax reform.”

The rules of the reconciliation process are complicated, but the bottom line is that, if Republicans want to pass permanent tax reform with fewer than 60 votes, they have to ensure that the tax legislation does not add to the deficit in any years beyond the budget window, typically 10 years.

“It is for that reason that the Bush tax cuts were made temporary,” said Richard Kogan, a budget expert at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

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Much of the Bush legislation was undone in the 2013 fiscal cliff legislation, an outcome that soured some Republicans on the idea of temporary tax cuts and left them more acutely aware of the constraints imposed by reconciliation.

“You can do anything in the next 10 years you want [with just] 51 votes in the Senate. But like Cinderella and the pumpkin coach, it all goes poof in year 11-50,” said Grover Norquist, the head of the anti-tax group Americans for Tax Reform.

Whether the border adjustment feature in the House GOP plan helps in the out years, or whether Republicans could get the official scorekeepers to say that it does, is a murky question. But, overall, the tax package was designed to meet the constraints of the budget process.

In addition to simplifying the tax code and allowing businesses to immediately write off all new investments, the House GOP tax plan would cut rates permanently. “To have all those things, the package is going to look like this one” and go through the reconciliation process, Norquist said, referring to the broad outline of the House Republican package, including the border-adjustment provisions.

Even if the tax rate cuts and tax base increases even out so that the overhaul doesn’t add to the deficit in the long run, there still will be many possible wrinkles that Republicans will have to iron out to ensure that the legislative package can proceed through reconciliation.

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For instance, the reform inevitably will change not just how much is taxed from whom, but also accounting standards, how taxes are reported and collected, and much more. If any of those changes are deemed to be more than just incidental to the government’s finances in the out years, Democrats could raise a point of order requiring them to be stripped out or passed with 60 votes, imperiling the entire bill. “There could be a lot of mischief played,” said Bill Hoagland, a senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center and former longtime congressional budget staffer.

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