Update: Two of the last remaining holdouts have confirmed that they will vote for tax reform. Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake says he now supports the bill. Susan Collins said a deal had been reached to include her unspecified property tax deduction amendment in the bill, and she has tentatively said she’ll vote yes.
It looks like it’s a done deal, folks. Though, of course, the bill will still need to survive reconciliation before it heads to Trump’s desk.
* * *
Update: Mitch McConnell has confirmed that the Republicans have the votes to pass the Senate’s tax-reform plan. McConnell’s comments put a slight bid back in stocks, which have fallen sharply following Mike Flynn’s guilty plea.
— Shailendra Nair (@shailendra_nair) December 1, 2017
* * *
John Cornyn, the No. 2 man in the Republican Senate leadership, said Friday that they have secured enough votes to pass the Senate version of the Republican tax reform bill, according to the Washington Post. Earlier in the morning, James Lankford of Oklahoma and Jerry Moran of Kansas, both said they’d support the bill, but Maine’s Susan Collins had said she’s still unconvinced. Hours later, Lindsey Graham echoed his claims.
Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said he planned to back the bill after announcing last week that he would vote against it because it didn’t provide enough tax relief to taxpayers who use the pass-through rate. Steve Daines of Montana, who objected to the bill on similar grounds, also said he’d vote for the bill.
Cornyn said the leadership had “at least 50” votes, but are working to secure one more ‘yea’ vote to provide a buffer against any surprises, like when John McCain voted to kill the senate’s repeal and replace plan over the summer.
Speaking with reporters outside of a meeting with the Republican caucus,Cornyn said “We have at least 50, and we’re still working.”
The comments from Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, came just hours after Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said he planned to back the bill. He was one of the final holdouts, though the GOP needed a little more help to ensure they had the 50 votes they needed. Cornyn did not say who else had committed to support the package.
Johnson’s support followed a late night of negotiations, following a standoff on the Senate floor Thursday when Johnson and two other members aired concerns about the bill.
He has long complained that the tax cut package does not provide enough benefits for a certain type of business, though he has requested numerous changes in recent days and it could not be immediately learned what precisely made him decide to back the bill.
Support from the Wisconsin Republican is a boost for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), but GOP leaders still need to win backing from at least one more holdout before they can be assured they have enough votes to pass the bill.
Unsurprisingly, Tennessee’s Bob Corker and Arizona’s Jeff Flake were two of the last confirmed holdouts. Both men were pushing measures that would reduce the bill’s impact on the deficit by paring back some of the proposed cuts. As the Post points out, the two men represent a unique challenge for the Republican leadership because they aren’t running for re-election.
Collins has suggested that she plans to support the tax package, but she is insisting on several changes of her own, including a plan to allow Americans to deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes and an expansion of the child tax credit. Collins already helped vote against the Republican repeal and replace plan and has a history of voting against tax cuts.
GOP leaders were meeting in McConnell’s office Friday morning to try to resuscitate the bill after a proposed trigger that would raise taxes if revenue targets were missed was rejected by the senate parliamentarian.
“I think Senator [Steve Daines (R-Mont.)] and Senator Johnson are supporting the bill, and we’re working hard to get the last two members we think we need to get onboard – Senator Flake and Senator Corker,” said Sen. John Cornyn, the second-highest ranking Republican in the Senate.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) was also attending the meeting in McConnell’s office. As he entered, he told reporters that lawmakers were still trying to figure out how to resolve the concerns raised by Corker and Flake. Corker had wanted to put a provision in the bill that would automatically raise taxes after five years if the growth projections that GOP leaders had promised did not come to fruition.
The tax increases would kick in through a “trigger” mechanism that was somehow tied to economic growth.
But the Senate’s parliamentarian told Corker on Thursday evening that there were issues with how the trigger would be designed. GOP leaders then had to decide whether to try to craft a new trigger or simply add new taxes back into the bill to lessen the impact on the debt.
On Friday morning, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said, “I think we’re doing real well.” When asked whether he believed Republicans had the votes to resolve the trigger issue, Hatch said, “I think so.
Corker and Flake are pushing for as much as $350 billion in tax cuts to be reversed if Republicans want the final bill to pass. There’s still no guarantee that the bill makes it to Trump’s desk – it will need to go through the reconciliation process, then be passed against by both the House and Senate.
Republican leaders are hoping to take the vote tonight.