- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Senate Republicans’ tax cut bill survived its second test Tuesday with passage in the Budget Committee, but leaders were still tweaking the measure to try to make sure they have enough votes when the bill reaches the floor as soon as this week.

The committee passed the nearly $1.5 trillion package on a party-line, 12-11 vote, with even some wavering Republicans voting for it but saying they want to see changes before final passage.

“Today’s markup moves us one step closer to a simpler, fairer and more transparent tax system,” said Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi, Wyoming Republican, whose panel was the second to approve the bill, after a party-line vote in the Senate Finance Committee earlier this month.

GOP leaders are dealing with about a half-dozen Republicans who either have expressed concerns or say they cannot support the bill as it stands. Complaints range from the size of the deficit to the balance of tax cuts between small businesses and large corporations.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the negotiations a “Rubik’s Cube.”

“We do have a few members who have concerns and we’re trying to address them, and we know we would not be able to go forward until we get 50 people satisfied, and that’s what we’re working on,” Mr. McConnell said Tuesday.

The GOP has 52 seats in the Senate, so they can afford to lose only two of them and still get the bill through with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.

Sen. Bob Corker, who says he doesn’t want to vote for a package that explodes federal deficits, said he’s reached an agreement “in principle” with leadership to create a fallback revenue option if projected economic growth from the package doesn’t pan out.

“While we are still working to finalize the details, I am encouraged by our discussions,” said Mr. Corker, Tennessee Republican.

Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, has said he wants additional protections for small businesses in the Senate package, and Sen. Steve Daines, Montana Republican, came out against the bill earlier in the week unless such changes are made.

Mr. Daines and Mr. Johnson have raised concerns that new benefits for smaller “pass-through” businesses that file their taxes as individuals might not be enough to compete with larger corporations, who would see their tax rate slashed from 35 percent to 20 percent under the plan.

The Senate measure also would slash individual tax rates and clear the code of various exemptions and deductions. The House passed its own, similar legislation earlier this month.

To pay for the additional small business breaks, Mr. Daines said lawmakers could end the ability for corporations to deduct the state and local taxes they pay — a benefit already axed for individuals under the Senate plan.

“Whatever we do for corporations as well as Main Street businesses as it relates to state and local taxes — treat them the same,” he said.

Senators said President Trump addressed those small business issues directly when he trekked to Capitol Hill for a Senate Republican lunch Tuesday.

“He just said, ‘Let’s put it together. Let’s make our deals. Let’s get it done,’” said Sen. Mike Rounds, South Dakota Republican.

Sen. Lindsey Graham also said Mr. Trump committed to supporting several items on the wish list of Sen. Susan Collins, a potential swing vote, including money for Obamacare cost-sharing subsidies, her measure to address high-risk insurance pools, and a partial restoration of a property tax deduction on the chopping block in the Senate plan.

“I really thought the president hit it out of the park in terms of tone — on his game in terms of substance,” said Mr. Graham, South Carolina Republican.

Mrs. Collins said there’s still a ways to go, but she’s encouraged by the response to her ideas on the property tax deduction and on ways to mitigate some of the potential effects of a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate, which is in the Senate package.

“I think they’re eager to help me get to yes,” said Mrs. Collins, Maine Republican.

The package the Budget Committee advanced Tuesday includes language that paves the way for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — an issue near and dear to Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has been seen as a potential swing vote on the tax bill.

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