Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) had proposed a “trigger” to increase some taxes if revenue targets weren’t reached. That appears to be off the table now. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)” />
WASHINGTON ― Senate Republicans avoided the most embarrassing scenario for their tax bill Thursday ― an unexpected floor defeat that would have sent the legislation back to committee ― but they are still facing a significant stumbling block and, hours before a vote, are still changing portions of their bill.
The “trigger” proposal from Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), which would have set off certain tax increases if Republicans didn’t hit revenue targets, was struck down by the Senate parliamentarian on Thursday afternoon. (Because of the restrictions that allow Republicans to pass their tax plan with a simple majority, provisions that don’t materially affect fiscal policies could be ruled subject to 60 votes.)
So when the parliamentarian informed Corker that his trigger proposal wouldn’t fly, the GOP bill suddenly faced a problem. Without that provision, Corker didn’t feel comfortable voting for the bill, and he had reinforcements. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has also been concerned about how much debt the bill would produce, as well as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who has concerns about pass-through business tax provisions, both refused to vote against a Democratic motion to send the legislation back to committee until a fix could be worked out.
Republicans held open a 15-minute vote for 62 minutes while Corker worked through possible fixes with Senate GOP leaders. Had Corker, Flake and Johnson voted no, the bill would have been sent back to the Finance Committee for three days and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would have been dealt yet another surprising and embarrassing floor defeat. But leaders eventually worked out an agreement. Instead of increasing taxes if Republicans failed to hit revenue targets, the bill would simply act as if Republicans will not reached those targets and will therefore raise taxes in coming years.
With that agreement, all three holdouts voted against the Democratic motion.
Still, the deal puts Republicans in an awkward spot. “We have an alternative we don’t want to do to try to address Sen. Corker’s concerns,” Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters after the tense vote.
According to Politico, Corker and Flake said Thursday night that the tax increases would kick in after six years ―…