Republicans rewriting tax bill — with fight pushed into Friday
Senate Republicans are still scrambling to win over enough votes to pass their massive tax code overhaul, with major changes to the bill still up in the air and debate pushed into Friday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the next vote in the tax debate will come at 11 a.m. Friday, as work continues behind the scenes to win over skeptical deficit hawks and other swing votes.
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Multiple GOP senators leaving the chamber after a dramatic late afternoon vote said a key proposal for deficit hawks — a trigger to raise tax rates if sufficient economic growth did not materialize — would not pass procedural muster and would need to find something else to satisfy the bloc of deficit hawk holdouts, led by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).
“It doesn’t look like the trigger is going to work, according to the parliamentarian,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. “So we have an alternative, frankly: a tax increase we don’t want to do to try to address Sen. Corker’s concerns.”
Corker told reporters: “My understanding is, that the parliamentarian has ruled against it so they’re just going to automatically put [tax increases] in, period.” Corker and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said the revenue raised with tax increases — which senators say would kick in six years after the enactment of the tax legislation — would total about $350 billion, although Cornyn suggested that figure may need to go higher.
Late Thursday, Republicans huddled with leadership and tax policy staff to work on a solution.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who supports the current package, estimated that Republicans needed to find an additional $370 billion to $400 billion within their package to placate concerns about increased deficits.
“What we’re trying to do right now is get to the point where nobody’s going to get exactly what they want but enough for us to get the bill passed,” he told reporters.
The sudden need to regroup came after extended drama on the Senate floor Thursday during an otherwise mundane procedural vote, when Corker, Flake and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) initially withheld their support on a vote to move forward with the bill. Ultimately they aligned with their party, but it suggested real concerns remained, including friction among Republicans over whether to stick to the 20 percent corporate tax rate rate insisted on by the White House.
Johnson withheld his vote during the standoff in exchange for votes on his amendments, including one that would further increase a tax deduction for pass-through businesses to around 25 percent.
The legislation would slash the corporate tax rate and lower rates for many, though not all, individuals. Senate Republicans have said their plan would boost the economy but not by nearly as much as some lawmakers hope, a new official analysis shows.
The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation said Thursday that the GOP plan would fall well short of covering its $1.5 trillion cost through additional economic growth; it predicted $407 billion in additional revenue would come in by boosting the economy by 0.8 percent over the next decade.
That would mean a $1 trillion deficit increase, which is problematic for lawmakers like Corker, who has said he would vote against a tax bill that increased the deficit. A Senate Finance Committee aide noted that the analysis was “incomplete” since the bill text has yet to be finalized.
Democrats have blasted Republicans for rushing the bill to the floor while considering significant eleventh-hour changes to the sprawling tax code rewrite.