GOP Leaders Claim They’ve Sewn Up 50 Votes For Tax Bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., flanked by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., left, and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, announces to reporters that the Senate is moving ahead on a Republican budget plan, a critical step in President Donald Trump and the party's politically imperative drive to cut taxes and simplify the IRS code, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Late Friday morning, with the fate of the GOP tax bill up in the air, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell broke his usual tradition of strolling silently past reporters by issuing the single sentence: “We have the votes.”

Minutes later, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), one of the key holdouts on the bill, announced his support, saying on Twitter that he was won over by “a commitment from the administration and Senate leadership to advance growth-oriented legislative solution to enact fair & permanent protections for DACA recipients.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who on Thursday laid out several serious issues she had with the bill and changes she is demanding, has not yet confirmed she is on board, telling reporters she would announce her position later on Thursday.

However, Collins said and other lawmakers confirmed she successfully secured one of her major asks: a restoration of a property tax deduction up to $10,000. Whether that is enough to bring her on board remains uncertain, but if Flake and every other Senate Republican save for Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) are in, the tax bill is set to sail through.

In a late night rewrite of the bill, the text of which has not yet seen the light of day, leadership won over a couple of other holdouts by making the tax break for so-called pass-through corporations more generous—up from 17.4 percent to 23.

As for the Senate’s deficit hawk holdouts, primarily Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), lawmakers confirmed Friday that no changes have been made to address their concerns. Negotiations hit a snag Thursday night after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that Corker’s idea of a deficit trigger, which would undo some of the bill’s deepest tax cuts if they failed to stimulate the economy, didn’t comply with the chamber’s rules. Republicans at first promised to find an alternative mechanism to avoid growing the deficit, but chose instead to move forward without one.

“I am absolutely convinced that this bill will end up reducing the deficit,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) told reporters. “So I feel very good about the fiscal situation.”

On Thursday night, leadership waved away a report from Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation that came to the opposite conclusion, detailing why the bill would cost the government $1 trillion even with economic growth. Senate leaders both declared the report junk and claimed it vindicates their claim that the tax bill will pay for itself.

“It’s like what one of my colleagues said about the CBO: the one thing you know is that they’re always going to be wrong,” GOP whip John Cornyn (R-TX) told reporters. “That’s the so-called official score. But their models don’t take into account the enormous influx of investment back into the United States and the positive impact that will have on economic growth.”

“But here’s what I think is important,” he went on, “our Democratic colleagues basically say you get zero economic growth with tax cuts, and I think that position has been emphatically repudiated by this report. We can quibble about how much growth, but what counts is the economy growing.”

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