Tax reform one step closer as Senate procedural vote passes

Tax reform one step closer as Senate procedural vote passes
President Donald Trump’s plan to rewrite the American tax code for the first time in three decades is nearing a final Senate vote, after lawmakers begin debate on the legislation.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 52-48 along party lines to formally bring the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to a floor vote that could come as early as this week.

No Republican senators voted against proceeding to debate and no Democrats voted for the measure.

Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), who previously voiced opposition to the bill, voted to advance the measure after “agreeing in principle” with the Trump administration and Senate leaders to add a “trigger mechanism” that would automatically increase taxes on millions of Americans if the economy doesn’t grow and tax revenues don’t increase as much as projected.

However, several House Republicans said that the provision would not stay in the bill.

“Automatic tax increases are a special level of insanity,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Arizona), according to the Associated Press. “I don’t think it survives.”

Senate Republicans also reportedly agreed to increase the tax deductions for businesses that do not pay corporate taxes from 17.4 percent to 20 percent, Senator Steve Daines (R-Montana) told Bloomberg.

The change was made to win the votes of Senators Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) and Daines, who withheld their support over concerns that the “pass-through” provision would benefit businesses paying the corporate tax rate over businesses that are taxed on an owner’s individual returns.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said that she would vote for the tax legislation, citing “a number of features that are very attractive to Alaskans.”

“It lowers tax rates, doubles the child tax credit, and provides tax relief for many families by doubling the standard deduction. It promotes economic growth, employment, and investment by improving the tax code for corporations and small businesses. And it removes the tax penalty for those who do not wish to purchase health insurance that they cannot afford or that offers little value to them,” Murkowski said in a statement.

However, the senator from Maine said that there was still “work to do on this legislation,” a sentiment that was echoed by several other lawmakers after the vote.

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), who previously voiced opposition to the bill, voted for the motion to proceed, but said that she is not happy with the bill as it is currently written.

“I feel like that we're making progress,” Collins said, according to CNN. “I am not there yet, but we're making progress.”

Other possible Republican holdouts include Senators John McCain (R-Arizona), Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas).

Before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) spoke from the floor, urging any Republican senators who oppose the bill in its current form to vote for the motion to proceed and offer their amendments.

“The bottom line is this, we must vote to begin debate, because once we do, we will be one step closer to taking money out of Washington’s pocket and putting more money into the pockets of the hard-working men and women we represent,” McConnell said.  

The motion to proceed triggered a 20-hour period of additional debate before the Senators begin a “vote-a-rama” on Thursday. During the process, senators can offer an unlimited number of amendments to the bill, which could drastically change the substance of the final legislation.

Senators could vote on the final passage of the bill as early as this week. However, McConnell can only afford to lose three Republican votes. Any more and the bill would not pass.

If the Senate approves the legislation this week, the bill would go back to the House, where lawmakers would have the month of December to finalize the bill before it is sent to the president’s desk.

After the Wednesday vote, Trump tweeted that the “only people who don’t like the Tax Cut Bill are the people that don’t understand it or the Obstructionist Democrats that know how really good it is and do not want the credit and success to go to the Republicans!”

However, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report on Sunday that most people earning less than $75,000 a year would pay more in taxes and see less benefits by 2027.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center also released a report last week that said the legislation would raise taxes for half of Americans by 2027.