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Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin On His Opposition To GOP Tax Bill


House Republicans have unveiled their much anticipated tax bill. Now, after failing to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, this might be their last big push to get a legislative win before the end of the year. Here's House Speaker Paul Ryan yesterday.


PAUL RYAN: We have to work quickly to fix our tax system, clean it up, level the playing field, make it more fair so that we can get bigger paychecks, more jobs and keep businesses in America and get businesses coming back home.

GREENE: Now, this bill proposes cuts and taxes. But to make up for that lost revenue, it also targets some popular tax breaks. And less than 24 hours after the rollout, even some Republicans are voicing some concerns. I want to bring in Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York. He's on the line.

Good morning, Congressman.

LEE ZELDIN: Good morning.

GREENE: So would you vote for this in its current form?

ZELDIN: No. I wouldn't. I mean, there are a lot of good things that are in this bill. But I am a New York congressman. I'm representing a New York district. And I understand well that if I am not representing my home district and my home state, I can't expect some other member of Congress from some other state to do that for me.

You referenced the state and local tax deduction elimination. There was some progress in bringing back the property tax deduction up to 10,000. But we need more progress in order to be able to get me to vote for this bill. And I'd love to be able to vote for the bill. We would have to make a little more progress to get there.

GREENE: And just to say - this means that you can't deduct what you pay in state and local taxes. And that is the deduction that is very important to people in some large states like yours - New York, California.

So you mentioned that they made some adjustments which seemed, like, specifically targeted to bring members like you on board. I mean, are you encouraged that things are moving in the right direction? Do you see some - a little more movement like that that might get you to support this?

ZELDIN: Well, it is definitely progress. And possibly for other members, it might be enough to get them to support the bill. I'm looking at this not just analyzing it on the total bill's impact on middle-income, low-income constituents. I do see a lot of good things in it, and I also look at the impact to my state.

The state and local tax deduction has been around for over a hundred years. It was one of the ways that Abraham Lincoln helped finance the Civil War. Some may look at this as subsidizing New York, but New York is a net contributor both with tax policy and spending policy. That's even with the state and local tax deduction. And I look at eliminating it kind of like a geographic redistribution of wealth where you're taking money from a state like New York to pay for deeper tax cuts elsewhere.

And what shouldn't be lost in this entire discussion is that the reason why our state and local tax deduction is as high as it is is because our state and local taxes are as high as they are. So that's an important message as well for really all levels of government to be working on tax relief, too.

GREENE: I don't have to tell you that the stakes are pretty high for your party to get a legislative win this year. So the bottom line - are you ready to work actively against your leadership if this bill doesn't change?

ZELDIN: I'm a no to this bill in its current form. I've been outspoken on that since the moment this bill has been released, and that's no surprise. I was opposed to the budget resolution when it was voted on recently. So they know where I am specifically on this issue. There's been a lot of meetings, phone calls, emails, texts exchanged. And I would love to be able to work with them.

GREENE: One thing I'm learning is that lawmakers text each other back and forth to try (laughter) - to try to work out disagreements over a bill.

ZELDIN: Anything. I'm willing to FaceTime, Skype or however they'd like to communicate. I'll use a medium.com account if it will get me an improvement.

GREENE: All right, Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin from the state of New York - Congressman, thanks.

ZELDIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.