BREAKING: US Senate Passes Historic Tax Reform Package, 51-49

Guy Benson
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Posted: Dec 02, 2017 2:01 AM
BREAKING: US Senate Passes Historic Tax Reform Package, 51-49

FINAL UPDATE - The votes are in, and the ayes have it.  After a marathon evening of debating and considering amendments, the US Senate has approved the GOP's tax reform bill, which would simplify the tax code and cut taxes for the vast majority of American households, small businesses and corporations.  Every Republican voted yes, except for Tennessee's Bob Corker.  Democrats uniformly voted no.  This is a big legislative victory for the GOP, which overcame a great deal of ferocious opposition -- much of it rooted in misinformation -- to pass the legislation.  Up next, a conference committee with the House.  But here's your summary for tonight:


UPDATE III - It's now looking official: Senate Republicans have the votes to pass tax reform. Arizona's Jeff Flake announced he's jumping on the bandwagon, and the finalized legislation includes a (paid for) amendment sought by Maine's Susan Collins that mirrors the House-passed SALT (state and local tax deduction) compromise. That strongly suggests that she'll be a "yes," too. Add it up, and that's 51, negating the need for Vice President Pence to break a potential tie. Depending on Bob Corker's mood in a few hours, McConnell might even get all 52 GOP votes. But all he really needs is 50-plus-one, and he says he's got 'em:


ORIGINAL POST - The Republican-held House of Representatives did its part by passing a tax overhaul earlier this month, with zero Democrats supporting the effort.  That bill cut taxes and boosted after-tax incomes, on average, across every income group in the country, and is projected by nonpartisan analysts to grow the US economy and create close to one million new full-time jobs.  It would also lower the tax burden on job-creating small businesses (key small business advocacy groups have endorsed the Republican push), and make America's extremely high statutory and effective corporate tax rates far more competitive internationally.  But we've seen this movie before.  With the "resistance" in full demagogic throat, and Democrats bound in lockstep opposition, will the GOP's narrow Senate majority fumble the ball, as they did on Obamacare?  We'll know soon enough, and tea leaves are mixed.  A vote is expected later today.  As we brace what's next, let's first note three developments from yesterday (see update) that may portend a successful outcome (see update II) for Mitch McConnell's conference:

(1) John McCain is a committed "yes."  As the Senator who more or less single-handedly killed his party's "repeal and replace" efforts in July, having him clearly on board is a huge boon to Republican leadership.  McCain's official statement touted the expected benefits of the bill -- acknowledging concerns about it, but ultimately determining that the legislation's upside was strong enough to secure his support:  


He even specifically addressed and endorsed the proposal's provision that would repeal Obamacare's tent pole, the federal individual mandate tax: "I have also argued that health care reform, which is important both to the well-being of our citizens and to the vitality of our economy, should proceed by regular order. This bill does not change that. As a matter of principle, I’ve always supported individual liberty and believe the federal government should not penalize Americans who cannot afford to purchase expensive health insurance. By repealing the individual mandate, this bill would eliminate an onerous tax that especially harms those from low-income brackets. In my home state of Arizona, 80 percent of people who currently pay the individual mandate penalty earn less than $50,000 per year," he wrote.  

(2) The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation released its "dynamic scoring" analysis that the Senate bill would add less than $1 trillion to deficits over a decade, as opposed to the on-paper $1.4 trillion figure reached under "static scoring."  The reason for this is that JCT anticipates the tax relief package would add nearly one percentage point to GDP growth over the next ten years, resulting in new revenues.  Many supporters will argue that JCT underestimates the economic benefits of tax reform, but their report still offers two positive data points:


(3) For what it's worth:


That was the state of play late yesterday afternoon, with my well-placed source telling me McConnell and company were in a "really good place" in terms of corralling the requisite 50-plus-one votes. The source stopped short of guaranteeing passage at the time, but described potential holdouts as playing an active and "constructive" role in shaping the bill throughout the process, carried out through regular order.  Susan Collins is said to be in a decent spot, and McConnell's "substitute amendment" (effectively the bill that was formally debated on the floor) was co-sponsored by...Lisa Murkowski.  The three squeakiest wheels, I was told, were outgoing Tennessee Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake (who want a deficit-related "backstop" to reduce the tax cuts if economic growth falls short of targets), and Wisconsin's Ron Johnson.  Johnson been characterized as a "hard no" in the media, but he's a pro-business, low-tax conservative at heart.  I'm not so sure he's still in the 'nay' column, considering his evolving posture (this was from Wednesday evening-- and see update below):


The bigger challenges appear to stem from the other two Senators, who emerged at the center of some floor drama last evening, which bubbled to the surface in full view of reporters.  (My source quoted above still sounds optimistic, but last evening was a setback).  Relevant parties spent the overnight hours seeking to hammer out an accommodation to address Corker and Flake's deficit concerns after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that a proposed "trigger" mechanism compromise did not pass procedural muster under reconciliation rules.  Might that eleventh-hour wrinkle cause the upper chamber GOP to once again face-plant?  Stay tuned for the yeas and nays, which may again blow up in embarrassing fashion -- or could result in a big policy and political win for Republicans. In the meantime, the Left is shouting as loudly as possible to kill the bill.  Some of their biggest claims are false.  Equip yourself with the facts, and help educate others.  The empirically-supportable truth is that the vast majority of taxpayers stand to benefit from tax reform.  Nevertheless, every single Senate Democrat marched along to Chuck Schumer's beat and voted against even debating the proposal, some of whom defended their decision with nonsensical explanations like this:


He couldn't vote to advance a debate over how the final bill would look because he...hadn't seen the final bill, or something. Got it. I'll leave you with a parting thought for Mssrs. Corker and Flake:


UPDATE - As I predicted above, Johnson is now a 'yes,' and despite last night's worrisome snag, my sources are telling me that things are again looking good. They stopped short of an airtight guarantee, but both said they expect a successful vote at some point today:


UPDATE II - It looks like this is happening (or maybe not?):