Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is taking a stand. He told Republican leaders he will be voting against the final tax bill unless he sees an expansion of the child tax credit, the Washington Post first reported.
If leaders don’t meet Rubio’s demands, it could pose an obstacle for the GOP tax plan, as the Republican conference would have to operate without a margin of error in the Senate.
“It’s a problem, no question about it,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who chairs the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, told reporters.
As Republicans hash out the major differences between the House and Senate tax proposals, they can only afford to lose two votes in the Senate to pass the bill with 51 votes. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who voted against the Senate’s bill because of the proposal’s impact on the national debt, has said the reports of the revised tax bill indicate it is going in the “wrong direction.” During the Senate’s tax debate, Rubio and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) failed to win an amendment that would have expanded the child tax credit to more lower-income Americans. Now Rubio is threatening to withhold his vote over it. Lee is undecided on the bill, according to his spokesperson.
So far, Republicans’ revisions have been focused on giving corporations and the wealthiest Americans the biggest tax cut under the assumption that they would then contribute more to the economy. Latest reports of the final proposal indicate it gives corporations and pass-through businesses, like LLCs and partnerships, a massive tax break, makes changes to the individual rates that largely benefit America’s wealthiest, and repeals the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which taxed people for not buying health insurance.
None of the details are final until the text of the bill is released, which gives Rubio and other dissenting voices some time to pressure their leaders. Republicans are expected to release the bill text on Friday and say they are on track to go to the Senate for a final vote next week.
Until now, the tax bill has moved much more swiftly through Congress than many expected; the momentum to get something done by the end of the year has driven many to look past their policy qualms. And the window for negotiations to fail is narrowing. But Rubio’s stand is a sign that there could be some last-minute hand-wringing to get this bill over the finish line.
How Marco Rubio could take a card out of Ron Johnson’s playbook
As pieces of the final tax bill become public, Rubio has made it known he was not happy.
It all comes back to a moment of Senate theatrics at the tax vote two weeks ago. Republicans and Democrats voted down Rubio and Lee’s amendment that proposed expanding the child tax credit in exchange for a slightly less dramatic corporate tax cut. Democrats voted against it because it didn’t go far enough to help families, and Republicans took issue with the change to the corporate tax rate — saying that would stifle economic growth.
Now the revised tax bill is expected to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, instead of the initially proposed 20 percent — the very number Republicans seemed so unwilling to budge on just two weeks ago. Behind the change of heart is a desire to give America’s highest earners a bigger tax break, lowering the top individual tax rate from 39.5 percent to 37 percent.
And Rubio has noticed.
20.94% Corp. rate to pay for tax cut for working family making $40k was anti-growth but 21% to cut tax for couples making $1million is fine?— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) December 12, 2017
In other words, corporations and high-income Americans are getting a much sweeter deal than working families.
The change from a 20 percent corporate rate to a 21 percent rate seems small, almost insignificant, but it was a major red line for Republicans until now. In fact, the GOP conference attempted to maneuver everything else in the tax code in order to keep the corporate rate at 20 percent, arguing that anything above would significantly hinder economic growth. It left proposals like Rubio and Lee’s on the cutting board.
Frustrated with the outcome, Rubio has hinted at making a stand over Twitter for some days now.
If #TaxReform conference weakens #ChildTaxCredit OR reduce corp cut but don’t make CTC refundable for working families, going to be problems— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) December 8, 2017
If Rubio and Lee band together, and if Corker remains a “no” vote — which he seems inclined to do — they have some leverage to make gains on their child tax credit proposal.
It would mimic the tactics of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who partnered with Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) during the Senate tax debate to win bigger tax breaks for pass-through businesses. Rubio and Lee both voted for the tax bill in the Senate even though their amendment failed. This is their last chance to try to get a change.
Susan Collins might not be getting what she asked for, and the “regular order” is not so regular
There are two more tepid “yes” votes in the Senate: one from Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and one from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ); both notably voted down the Obamacare repeal bills.
Collins voted for the tax bill in the Senate having been given assurances that Congress would pass two Obamacare stabilization bills in exchange. She has since opened up room to change her mind.
"I always wait until the final version of the bill is brought before us before I make a final decision on whether or not to support it," she said on CBS’s Face the Nation this weekend. "There are major differences between the House and Senate bills. And I don't know where the bill is going to come out."
There hasn’t been much talk of passing the stabilization bills — one to permanently fund the cost-sharing reduction subsidies in Obamacare, and another to create a $4.5 billion reinsurance fund to offset costly premiums — although conservative House Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) speculated it might come up in the next spending package. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) told reporters Thursday that there isn’t “much appetite” for either bill in the House.
But there are signs that Collins is more open to getting to “yes” on this tax bill than not.
While she initially said she’d like to see both these bills pass before taking a final vote on the tax bill, she told Vox Wednesday it just needed to be done by the end of the year.
Then there’s always room for speculation around Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) vote. He voted against the health care bill, voted against the Bush tax cuts in the 2000s, and has made repeated calls for going through regular order on major pieces of legislation. McCain, who is currently in the hospital recovering from a cancer therapy–related ailment, voted in favor of the tax bill, and has scoffed at anyone who has questioned the strength of his commitment to the effort.
But Republicans’ efforts to go through regular order have weakened with each step — and there haven’t been any bipartisan negotiations, as McCain stirringly called for during his floor speech during the health care debate. The bill was largely negotiated in leaders’ offices and rubber-stamped in committee, a process that has Democrats increasingly frustrated.
“This conference, so-called conference committee, is a farce,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said at the conference committee meeting. “According to media reports, the final legislation has already been completed. This legislation which will have a major impact on our economy has not had one public hearing.”
In the health care debate, this was enough to lose McCain’s support.