Republican and Democratic Senators sparred over the GOP-backed tax reform plan on Thursday night. Republicans are reworking parts of the plan and are considering limiting some tax cuts to keep a handle on the budget deficit. (Dec. 1) AP
WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans moved Friday evening towards passage of an historic overhaul of individual and corporate taxes after sweetening the bill with tax cuts for some businesses and promising future action on immigration and health care to attract reluctant senators.
"We have the votes," Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after a late morning conference where the latest changes were discussed behind closed doors. The Kentucky Republican said the final vote could come Friday night.
Key details about how the bill would change were still being ironed out late Friday, but two changes that had been under consideration — a minimum tax on wealthy people and corporations to raise $350 billion to reduce deficits, and a top corporate rate of 22% instead of the proposed 20% — had been rejected.
"By and large, it keeps the same framework and integrity of what our priorities were," said Marc Short, President Trump's top liaison with Congress.
The nonpartisan scorekeeper on tax bills, the Joint Committee on Taxation, reported Thursday that even after taking into account projected economic growth from tax cuts, the bill would add $1 trillion to the national debt over the coming decade
The bill appeared imperiled on Thursday night as several Republican senators voiced last-minute concerns about it. But by Friday night, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., appeared to be the last Republican holdout, saying it would increase the debt burden on future generations.
Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Steve Daines of Montana pledged their support Friday morning in exchange for an increase, from 17.4% to 23%, in the amount of profits that would not be taxed for owners of businesses who pay their taxes through individual rather than corporate tax returns.
Johnson said the increase would be paid for by changing how profits held in corporations' offshore accounts would be treated.
Sen. Susan Collins announced she was a "yes" Friday afternoon after she said she got a commitment that health insurance changes to stabilize insurance markets would be approved before the bill is sent to Trump. She also said she got leaders to allow taxpayers who itemize to write off up to $10,000 in property taxes paid to state or local governments. In its original form, the bill eliminated all deductions for state and local taxes, but the version passed by the House includes the property tax provision.
"After securing significant changes, as well as commitments to pass legislation to help lower health insurance premiums, I will cast my vote in support of the Senate tax reform bill," the Maine Republican tweeted Friday.
Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona announced he would support the bill after getting an agreement that leaders would work on "fair and permanent protections" for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
These immigrants, known as "DREAMers," had been given protection from deportation by former president Barack Obama, but President Trump rescinded that executive order.
Flake also said leaders agreed to remove what he called an $85 billion "gimmick" dealing with the expansion of a tax break for business equipment purchases.
Other GOP senators who had wanted changes included Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah. Rubio and Lee want to expand the child tax credit, but it was not clear Friday if they would get what they asked for in the final bill.
Under the rules being used for the tax bill, the Senate can pass the legislation with a simple majority of 51 votes. It was unclear when the vote might happen because those same rules allow senators to propose unlimited amendments, and Democrats could try to slow the bill down.
Even after the Senate passes the bill, House and Senate Republicans will have to negotiate differences between their tax cut bills and vote on a final compromise.