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Sen. Bob Corker is still working on a "trigger" deal. Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP

The tax bill's fate in the Senate could rest on Sen. Bob Corker's "trigger" idea, which continues to be negotiated as the chamber debates the bill. But there aren't yet details on how it works, it may not comply with budget rules, and while it's being sold as a backstop to alleviate debt concerns, the vast majority of economists say the tax bill increases federal debt — meaning whatever the trigger ends up doing should be taken seriously.

Why this matters: It means Senate passage of the bill isn't in the bag yet, although it's getting close. If the Senate succeeds with including the trigger, the tax bill's passage seems very likely. Conversely, if the trigger doesn't work out, it could imperil the votes of deficit hawks in the Senate even as other Republican holdouts fall in line.

What we know: The deficit hawks are still negotiating a "trigger" that would take effect if the tax bill adds to the deficit or falls short of economic growth predictions. Other than that, we don't know a lot of details. The leading options seem to be a trigger that would increase taxes, including on the corporate side, or cut spending.

Considerations:

  • Almost every reputable economic analysis has concluded the bill will add to the deficit. That means whatever gets triggered isn't just hypothetical. It will probably happen if it's based on deficit increases.
  • "Since no credible economist believes that the bill will increase growth enough to generate enough revenues to offset the tax cut, any trigger that accomplishes what Corker et al want would be likely to take effect. Unless a future Congress waives it," Edward Lorenzen of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget told me.
  • The trigger may not comply with Senate budget rules, lobbyists and experts warn — the so-called “Byrd" rule — which must be kept for the bill to only need 50 votes to pass. Whether or not the trigger complies is still being worked out. If it doesn't and isn't included, it puts at risk the vote of Corker and potentially other deficit hawks.
  • If it is included, the specifics may lose other members who don't like the idea of raising taxes or cutting spending in the future, although this seems less likely to happen.
  • If a future Congress did somehow end up letting taxes get raised during a period of slow economic growth, this could further hamper growth.

Caveats:

  • Senate Republicans really want to pass this bill.
  • We don't know what the trigger will do, or what would cause it to take effect.
  • Congress could very easily waive it in the future, meaning it wouldn't tackle the deficit down the road but could get the tax bill across the finish line.
  • A very similar scenario is already taking place, with members like Sen. Susan Collins demanding that Congress waive spending cuts already triggered by passing the tax bill.

Go deeper

NRA files for bankruptcy, says it will reincorporate in Texas

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaks during CPAC in 2016. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for voluntary bankruptcy as part of a restructuring plan.

Driving the news: The gun rights group said it would reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment." Last year, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.

50 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden: "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution

Joe Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden promised to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine manufacturing, as he outlined a five-point plan to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in the first months of his presidency.

Why it matters: With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, Biden is trying to establish how he’ll approach the pandemic differently than President Trump.

A new Washington

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Image

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday that the city should expect a "new normal" for security — even after President-elect Biden's inauguration.

The state of play: Inaugurations are usually a point of celebration in D.C., but over 20,000 troops are now patrolling Washington streets in an unprecedented preparation for Biden's swearing-in on Jan. 20.