After weeks of jockeying, Senate Republicans were finally able to secure the necessary amount of votes and pass their comprehensive tax reform package early Saturday morning.
The GOP-led tax bill passed by a slim margin of 51-49, with Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker being the only Republican to vote no. Vice President Mike Pence was not even needed as a tie-breaker.
Every Democrat voted against the bill.
“We have an opportunity now to make America more competitive, and to keep jobs from being shipped offshore and provide substantial relief to the middle class,” McConnell told reporters following the vote. “At the end, there was not a single Democrat who thought this was a good idea, and so we’re going to take this message to the American people a year from now.”
The Senate bill now heads to a conference committee, where leaders in the upper chamber will work with their House counterparts on negotiating a uniform bill — House Republicans passed their own tax reform package last month, but their bill is remarkably different from the Senate version.
Senate GOP leadership’s ability to secure the necessary votes for passage came after numerous changes to the bill were made to placate the concerns of several members in their caucus.
Several Republican senators had expressed issue with earlier versions of the tax legislation, with many having their own specific criticisms, but were won over after rewrites.
Two Republicans who had formerly come out against the bill, Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Steve Daines of Montana, changed their stance after the bill was amended to their liking.
Both Daines and Johnson felt an earlier version did not do enough for small businesses. Their concerns were tempered after changes to the legislation provided more benefit to pass-through businesses, raising the amount of pass-through income businesses can deduct.
“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 stated to the media.
There were also worries that Sens. John McCain and Susan Collins — two moderate Republicans who bucked their party when they derailed the Obamacare repeal earlier this year — would oppose the tax bill because of a provision that repeals the health care mandate, a major component of Obamacare.
Although they were some of the last remaining holdouts, the two centrists ultimately felt the legislation earned their approval.
“After careful thought and consideration, I have decided to support the Senate tax reform bill,” McCain, an Arizona senator, announced on Thursday. “I believe this legislation, though far from perfect, would enhance American competitiveness, boost the economy, and provide long overdue tax relief for middle class families.”
Collins was more concerned about the effect on homeowners. The Maine Republican wanted to add a deduction for local property taxes and was able to come to an agreement with leadership on the issue.
Another big issue among GOP caucus members was deficit spending versus deeper tax cuts. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, two Republicans that have announced their pending retirements and have publicly feuded with President Trump, wanted to slim the size of the $1.4 trillion tax package by $350 billion to $450 billion.
Corker was the strongest advocate of adding a trigger rule to protect from deficit spending. The trigger would automatically increase taxes in the event government revenue does not reach expected levels. However, according to a report by CNN, the Senate parliamentarian ruled such a trigger would not be allowed under Senate rules — derailing Corker’s idea.
Corker, an outgoing lawmaker who has chosen not run for re-election next year, was the only Republican senator to vote against the bill. He has, however, left the door open to voting for it after it the legislation has been changed in conference committee.
By Friday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared he had secured enough votes for passage.
“We have the votes,” McConnell announced to reporters as he walked down the hallway between his office and the Senate chamber after leaving an hour-and-a-half-long meeting.
Two separate tax bills have been passed in the House and Senate, and leaders from both chambers will have to meet in conference committee to create a uniform package — something that could potentially prove to be very difficult.
The two bills are remarkably different. Namely, the Senate’s version includes a measure that repeals the health care mandate in Obamacare, which requires all Americans to carry insurance or else pay a fine. The House has no such clause.
Numerous other differences, such as tax deductions, are glaring among the two bills. Many senators who had issue with the bill may have voted for it Friday knowing it could be altered to their liking.