As Vote Nears, GOP Senator Warns Tax Bill Ignores ‘Debt And Deficit Issues’

Oklahoma Republican Senator James Lankford talks to supporters during the Republican watch party in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford talks to supporters during the Republican watch party in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

With a vote on the controversial Republican tax bill expected in the Senate later this week, GOP leaders are furiously whipping the handful of lawmakers who could make or break the bill’s success. But for every vote they pull on board, more seem to fall off the wagon.

On Monday, yet another Republican senator aired concerns about the bill, particularly estimates that it would balloon the federal deficit by $1.2 to $1.4 trillion. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) told reporters in a Capitol Hill press conference that he’s skeptical the promised economic growth will fill that hole, and refused to say how he will vote on the tax bill itself.

“What if we don’t get 0.4 percent growth? Is there any backstop?” he asked. “I’m not opposed to tax reform, but we need to do it right.”

Lankford also suggested that conservatives who have long railed about the size of the federal deficit are acting hypocritically by backing the deep tax cuts without corresponding spending cuts.

“We can’t ignore the debt and deficit issues,” he said. “As conservatives, we’ve said for a long time that to get ahead of the deficit we have to control our spending and have a growing, healthy economy. Well, if we use all of the tax reductions to just offset, we’ll never get on top of it.”

Lankford, a member of the key Senate Finance Committee that hashes out tax policy, said Republicans need to learn from what happened over the past few years in Kansas, where deep tax cuts sent the state into a fiscal crisis, forcing cuts to public school funding, roads, retiree pensions, and state universities.

“Those of us in Oklahoma and Kansas and the middle of the country have seen some of this in our own state legislatures,” Lankford said. “It’s important to learn from what we’ve seen.”

Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran shared similar fears in town hall meetings and local interviews over the Thanksgiving break.

“We don’t want to increase the debt and deficit as a result of tax cuts,” he told a crowd in Clay Center on Saturday. “I’m also cognizant of what people saw happen in Kansas.”

Republicans can only lose two votes from their caucus and still pass the tax bill. With deeply conservative lawmakers like Moran and Lankford wobbling, in addition to more moderate members like Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), the upcoming Senate vote is likely to be a nail-biter for GOP leaders desperate to avoid closing out the year with no major legislative accomplishments.

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

If you enjoy reading TPM and value what we do, become a member today.

Latest Dc
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: