Dec 1, 2017

The search for the Republican tax deal

Sen. Jeff Flake is still a wildcard on the Senate tax bill. Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP

Senate Republicans are working to find hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue for their tax bill, in an attempt to bring deficit hawks like Sens. Bob Corker and Jeff Flake onboard. After delaying votes on the bill last night, they'll resume voting Friday morning.

Be smart: Aides say they still hope to bring all 52 Republicans to yes. But it's going to be extremely hard to find ways to raise as much as $500 billion in revenue overnight, and raising taxes could lose other members.

Recap of Thursday night: The Senate parliamentarian said that Corker's "trigger" idea, which would have raised taxes if the deficit was growing in a few years, didn't comply with budget rules. But, one aide cautioned, some parts of the deal may work, meaning there's still serious thought being given to a rule-compliant trigger.

  • Corker then said he wants to write the tax increases into the bill instead, an idea other Republicans are surely going to be uncomfortable with. Other ideas for raising revenue were floating around as well, including an alternative minimum tax potentially on both corporations and individuals.
  • It's unclear how many other deficit hawks would vote against a bill that raises no more additional revenue than the current version, nor is it clear how many votes would be lost if the bill does raise additional revenue through higher taxes.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz has made it clear he hates the idea of raising taxes automatically through a trigger. "I think that is a very bad idea," he said on Fox News Thursday night.

Our thought bubble: There's an argument to be made that this bill isn't the last chance, and members will decide to vote for the bill in hopes of making it better in conference — or just in hopes that a future Congress acts to keep any tax increases from happening. Then again, Corker and Flake may be too smart to fall for that.

What else we're watching: Final deals getting Sens. Susan Collins and Ron Johnson to vote for the bill. And the long-shot situation in which Sen. John McCain decides making changes overnight that are worth hundreds of billions of dollars isn't regular order.

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