Why a Firm Believer in Tax Cuts Could Derail the Senate Tax Cut Plan
Senate Republican leaders, who are seeking a major legislative victory before year’s end, hope to bring their tax bill, which differs significantly from the House measure, to a vote after Thanksgiving. But it is unclear whether it has enough support to pass in the narrowly divided chamber.
Offering concessions to skeptical senators one by one could prove an impossible task for Republican leaders, who face restraints under Senate rules on the total size of the tax cut package. Those leaders are hoping, instead, that they can pull off a version of Mr. Ryan’s strategy: all but daring holdouts to derail the party’s top priority.
Republicans, who control Congress and the White House, are desperately seeking their first significant legislative achievement of the Trump presidency. Mr. Johnson’s public wavering elicited calls from President Trump and a visit from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Gary D. Cohn, chairman of the National Economic Council, all of whom sounded out Mr. Johnson about his concerns.
Mr. Johnson is a firm believer in the power of tax cuts to lift economic growth. He grew up on a Minnesota farm, worked as an accountant after college, and spent more than 30 years immersed in his family’s plastics company before assuming his Senate seat in 2010.
Since winning re-election in 2016, he has not shied from voicing displeasure with the Republican leadership. He was an early and vocal critic of the party’s legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act, though he ultimately voted in favor of the bill.
His concerns with the Senate’s tax bill stem not from its overarching goal of cutting taxes but with how the bill treats small businesses and large corporations. Mr. Johnson says the legislation is tilted in favor of big companies, and he is eager to find a way to level the playing field.
Mr. Ryan, who was his party’s 2012 vice-presidential nominee, helped Mr. Johnson’s ascendance to the Senate. Mr. Ryan barnstormed Wisconsin on Mr. Johnson’s behalf as his come-from-behind re-election bid took off last year, and the two have forged a bond in Washington.