Fri | Dec 15, 2017

Top Republican claims enough votes for Senate OK of tax bill

Published:Sunday | December 3, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Donald Trump

Senate Republicans steamed towards passage of a $1.4 trillion tax bill on Friday, overcoming eleventh-hour hitches in their drive to deliver a major legislative accomplishment to President Donald Trump by Christmas.

"We have the votes," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after a closed-door meeting of Republican senators.

One prior holdout, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., announced that he would support the bill. And another, Sen. Susan Collins, came close. The Maine Republican said that she won an agreement to add a deduction for local property taxes. Still, Collins was coy about whether she ultimately would vote for the bill.

With the party controlling the Senate 52-48 and Democrats uniformly opposed, Republicans need 50 votes to win approval for the bill. Vice President Mike Pence would break a tie.

Momentum for the measure was boosted earlier on Friday when Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., declared he would vote for it. Johnson said that leaders had agreed to make tax breaks more generous for millions of businesses, which has been demanding for weeks.

"I sought assurance, and I was given assurance that I will be at the table" when Senate-House bargainers write a compromise version of the bill, Johnson said of talks he had with GOP leaders Thursday night.

Senate passage would push Congress a step closer to the first rewrite of the nation's tax code in three decades.

The bill seemed to be sailing towards passage on Thursday, until a report was released by Congress' non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimating that the package would produce budget deficits totalling $1 trillion over the coming decade.

 

PROJECTED GROWTH

 

Trump administration officials and leading congressional Republicans have said that the measure's tax cuts would spark enough economic growth to pay for the lowered levies. The projection left the votes of several GOP lawmakers in doubt, including Corker and Flake.

Amid a whirl of meetings and dramatic votes on Thursday evening, the Senate GOP leaders were rewriting the bill behind closed doors. Changes being discussed included rolling back some of the tax cuts after six years to appease deficit hawks notably Flake and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

At stake is a top priority for Trump and a Republican Party that considers passage of the measure the best way to preserve the GOP's congressional majorities in next year's mid-term elections.

Another faction to be reckoned with: senators supporting millions of businesses whose owners report the firm's profits on their individual tax returns. The vast majority of US businesses, big and small, are taxed this way. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., backed the tax legislation on Wednesday after securing an increase in the deduction for business income from 17.4 per cent to 20 per cent.

Johnson said on Friday that he was won over after GOP leaders offered to boost that deduction to 23 percent.

-AP