Really? It didn’t look that way yesterday evening when three of their Republican colleagues nearly derailed the tax reform bill on a procedural vote. After intense negotiations this morning and a little horse-trading, though, John Cornyn told reporters that GOP leadership have 50 votes whipped for the bill’s final vote, expected later today or early tomorrow:
Top Republicans said on Friday that they have the votes to pass their tax plan after two key holdouts came on board.
“I believe so,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters, asked if they had the votes needed to pass the legislation.
Pressed if that means GOP leadership has the 50 votes needed to let Vice President Pence break a tie, he added “yes.”
Cornyn told reporters that the number didn’t include Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, two of the three Republicans that looked ready to pull the plug on the bill last night. Susan Collins immediately objected to being included among the committed, but says she’s coming closer to it:
Undercutting a claim by GOP leaders that they have enough votes to pass tax reform, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters Friday that she is still undecided on the legislation.
“I have not made that announcement or that decision,” Collins said when asked if she supports the legislation.
But Collins said she sees a path to getting to yes. “We’re making very good progress,” she added.
Mitch McConnell later told reporters that it was a done deal, but it might be a bigger deal than they’re admitting:
BREAKING: McConnell walks onto the floor and tells reporters: “We have the votes.”
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) December 1, 2017
Collins became less important after Jeff Flake signed onto the deal, but it contains a possible poison pill for House Republicans:
Flake to vote yes on tax reform. Said he got a deal on "the $85 billion expensing budget gimmick in the bill." Also got a deal "to enact fair and permanent protections for DACA recipients."
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) December 1, 2017
Is DACA in the bill, or is this a side commitment? It’s probably the latter, given that DACA is not germane to tax legislation and it still has to go through reconciliation. Even so, it’s tough to imagine such a condition winning the approval of the House Freedom Caucus. Don’t forget that this will proceed to a conference committee to resolve the many and profound differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. Just how many of these side deals will get through that process, and will these senators still support the final version when it emerges?
That also applies to a couple of other late adopters too:
In a win for leadership, GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Steve Daines of Montana declared on Friday they will both support the bill. A sweeping manager’s amendment to be unveiled later Friday will likely incorporate significant changes from the version that cleared the Senate Finance Committee just over two weeks ago. …
Daines and Johnson had demanded more generous treatment of “pass-through” companies — businesses that file their taxes on the individual code — in the measure. Daines’ office said the “pass-through” companies will now be able to deduct up to 23 percent of their income, a boost from the rates in previous versions of the tax bill.
“After weeks of fighting for Main Street businesses including Montana’s farmers and ranchers, I’ve decided to support the Senate tax cut bill which provides significant tax relief for Main Street businesses” Daines said in a statement Friday. “With 68 percent of Montana’s jobs created by Main Street businesses, this is much needed relief that will help spur economic growth and provide higher paying jobs.”
Right now it appears that Corker and Collins are the only ones still on the fence, and it’s tough to see why Corker would remain in that position. He might not like all of the specifics in the bill, but it does appear to have consensus. He can always try killing the conference report if it changes significantly. One has to wonder whether Collins will bother getting on board if Corker gives McConnell 51; she may want to protect herself with Maine voters, although she can also do that on the conference report too, if need be.
At any rate, this is a rare success for the Senate Republican caucus … but it’s not final yet, either.