Senate Republicans Coalescing Around Tax Bill

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Several Senate Republicans who had previously expressed concerns with the GOP tax plan have now announced their support for the bill.

GOP lawmakers are attempting to whip up the votes to put their tax overhaul into conference as party members offer up a bevy of amendments. Meanwhile, polling indicates that the tax plan is overwhelmingly unpopular among U.S. voters.

On Nov. 28, the Senate Budget Committee advanced the GOP tax proposal by a vote along party lines. House Republicans have already passed their own competing tax bill. Senate Republicans currently aim to pass their own legislation by Dec. 1 so that they can put it in conference with the House bill to shape a tax overhaul that GOP lawmakers in both chambers could agree on.

Senate Republicans are attempting to pass their tax bill, which would require only a simple majority and bypass the need for any Democratic support. With 52 seats in the Senate, Republicans need 50 votes to advance their bill into conference, meaning they could only afford to lose two votes from their own party.

On Nov. 29, GOP Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma disclosed that he would support the bill despite his previous objections to increasing the federal deficit. The GOP tax plan is projected to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over 10 years, but Republicans have asserted that the loss in revenue would be offset by stimulated economic growth. Lankford said that he would support the bill if it included a provision that would change the tax rates if the economy did not grow as much as Republicans expected.

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"What I've done is ask for a backstop to be in place to say, in case the economic numbers numbers aren't reached, there will be a way to recover some of those revenues," Lankford told CBS News. "So yes, I am on board with this bill."

GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee had also proposed inserting a "backstop" into the bill. Senate Republicans have proposed several backstop measures, such as raising the corporate tax rate by 1 percent or spiking individual rates to raise $350 billion.

Meanwhile, GOP Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri dismissed the need for such a backstop.

"I believe that we'll have substantial growth [from tax reform] ... and that largely takes care of any perceived deficit," Blunt told Politico.

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On Nov. 28, GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine signaled that she would support the bill after speaking with President Donald Trump.

"I believe that a lot of my concerns, it appears, are going to be addressed and that I'm going to be getting the opportunity to offer amendments on the Senate floor," Collins told The New York Times.

Collins had been concerned about a provision in the bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. Health care experts have warned that removing the requirement to purchase health insurance would destabilize the ACA markets and raise premiums for Americans with pre-existing conditions. Collins requested that Trump support a bipartisan proposal to increase health care subsidies in order to offset any premium spikes.

On Nov. 29, Congressional Budget Office Director Keith Hall disclosed that the subsidies that Collins wanted would not be enough to avoid spikes in premiums.

GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin had originally opposed the bill because he believed it would harm pass-through businesses. On Nov. 29, he announced that he would support the legislation after the pass-through deduction was raised to 20 percent, Axios reports.

GOP Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona have not committed either way on the bill.

While Senate Republicans are negotiating amongst themselves to pass their tax overhaul, recent polling has found that the majority of Americans do not support their proposals. After averaging five national surveys released in November, FiveThirtyEight found that only 32 percent of Americans supported the GOP tax plan while 46 percent disapproved of it, making it the least popular tax legislation since 1981.

Sources: Axios, CBS NewsFiveThirtyEight, The New York TimesPolitico / Featured Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr / Embedded Images: MSNBC/YouTube, Joy Holder/Wikimedia Commons

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