There are lots of competing demands in the Senate — and not a lot of room for error.
Senate Republicans are hoping to bring their tax bill to a vote the week after Thanksgiving. But with less than two weeks to go, they can’t seem to agree on what tax reform should look like.
Getting 50 Republican senators to vote for the final bill will be difficult, especially because there are dramatically divergent views on the bill’s goals. This is not just about senators squabbling over small details; there are serious ideological differences that could derail the entire bill.
The first official defection came from Sen. Ron Johnson (R–WI), who released a statement last week saying he could not support the bill as written because it favors large corporations and doesn’t give enough help to small “pass-through” businesses, where business owners pay individual tax on their business’s profits.
“I just have in my heart a real affinity for these owner-operated pass-throughs,” Johnson recently told the New York Times’s Jim Tankersley. “We need to make American businesses competitive — they’re not right now. But in making businesses competitive, we can’t leave behind the pass-throughs.”
Johnson’s defection is noteworthy, but it’s not even the biggest challenge the Senate bill is facing right now.
There are currently two huge obstacles to the Senate bill passing. First, there’s the fact that the massive cuts in both the House and Senate tax bills will increase the national debt by about $1.5 trillion over the next decade. Some conservative senators have made it clear that’s a nonstarter for them.
Then there’s the inclusion of a provision that would repeal Obamacare’s individual mandate tax penalty, which would give Republicans more than $330 billion extra to work with over the next decade, but would also result in about 13 million people losing their health insurance. That could anger moderate Republicans who voted against Obamacare repeal earlier this summer.
In fact, the policy fight over tax reform currently shaping up in Congress is similar to the health care debate in many ways.Lawmakers have an extremely tight deadline and a lot of competing demands. And just like with health care, Senate Republicans have a slim margin of error — they can only afford to lose two votes.
Here are the competing Republican factions on taxes, so far:
The deficit hawks: Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, John McCain
Sens. Bob Corker (R–TN) and Jeff Flake (R–AZ) have made it very clear they don’t think a Republican tax bill should increase the national deficit in any way.
“There are several of us that are trying to figure out a way to make sure this doesn’t hurt us relative to deficits,” Corker told Politico last week. “We’re looking globally at the whole thing and trying to do what we can to make it more fiscally palatable.”
A month ago, Corker was even more blunt, flatly stating he wouldn’t support a bill that would add to the national deficit.
“With realistic growth projections, it cannot produce a deficit,” Corker told Bloomberg last month. “There is no way in hell I’m voting for it.”
Make no mistake: Corker wants to pass a tax bill. But he isn’t seeking reelection next year, so he’s unencumbered by political pressure to hold his nose and vote for something he doesn’t like. Flake is also not seeking reelection, and he’s been clear he doesn’t think tax reform should just be tax cuts. When the House bill was released, Flake took to the Senate floor criticizing steep tax cuts without real tax reform.
“We cannot simply rely on rosy economic assumptions, rosy growth rates to fill in the gap; we’ve got to make tough decisions,” he said. “We’ve been hearing a lot about cuts, cuts, cuts. If we are going to do cuts, cuts, cuts, we have got to do wholesale reform. With the national debt exceeding $20 trillion, we have got to do this seriously.”
Another person to watch is Sen. John McCain, who voted against the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. McCain,who was reelected in 2016 and likely won’t run again due to his recent brain cancer diagnosis, is also still a stickler for regular order and wants a tax bill passed in a bipartisan way. If it’s not, he may pull the same tactic he did on Obamacare repeal: vote it down.
The moderates: Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski
Susan Collins (R–ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) are the two moderate senators whose votes helped doom Obamacare repeal. They’re expected to be friendlier to a tax bill, although both have said they want to see a final version before making up their minds. If history is any indication, Collins voted for the Bush tax cuts in the early 2000s.
But if there’s one thing that will keep her from voting for the current bill, it’s Republicans’ attempt to repeal Obamacare’s individual mandate. Collins said as much Sunday morning on ABC’s This Week.
“But the biggest mistake was putting in a provision from the Affordable Care Act into the Senate bill that’s not in the House bill,” she told host George Stephanopoulos. “I hope that will be dropped.”
Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/the-4-gop-factions-plus-rand-paul-fighting-out-the-tax-bill/ar-BBEMpGb