The first Republican opponent of the Senate tax overhaul has announced himself: Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
Johnson told reporters and later issued a statement confirming he currently opposes the tax plan. He isn’t satisfied with the changes that either the Senate or House plan currently provides for what are called “pass-through businesses,” small firms that are taxed as individuals. Some conservatives want deeper cuts for them.
“These businesses truly are the engines of innovation and job creation throughout our economy, and they should not be left behind,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, neither the House nor Senate bill provide[s] fair treatment, so I do not support either in their current versions.”
Johnson’s defection is the first official “no” in the Senate for the Republican tax plan. Under the “budget reconciliation” rules the GOP is using to pass the bill with only 50 votes instead of the usual 60, the majority still needs 50 of its 52 members to back the legislation.
They could only lose two more, unless Johnson is won over. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) have sounded apprehensive after the Senate added repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate to their plan. Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) are worried about how much the bill is project to increase the federal deficit.
But Johnson is the only definitive “no” for now. And that could change. He repeatedly stated his frustration during the Obamacare repeal debate, finding several different reasons to be opposed to the bill. But in the end, he backed every version of repeal that Senate leaders put up for a vote.
The House is expected to pass its tax bill on Thursday. Then the Senate will become the focus.