GOP Leaders Expect Easy House Passage of Tax Reform, But Hit Senate Snag

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is surrounded by reporters as he goes to vote on Capitol Hill on Nov. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — House Republicans are confident of victory going into Thursday’s scheduled vote on the recently crafted tax reform plan, but the bill’s path in the upper chamber became less certain with an unexpected GOP defection.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) “has been working very closely with a lot of our members who had really good smart questions about specific parts of the bill,” Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) told CNN today when asked if Republicans still have enough votes for passage. “So, we have more.”

“Even today, we have more meetings with members who are working to get to yes and who ultimately will vote for the bill. So, we’re going to pass the bill. And it’s going to be a strong vote tomorrow,” he added. “And it’s going to send a strong message that we want to cut taxes, put more money in the pockets of families and create jobs.”

Scalise said the GOP bill relies heavily on economic and wage growth to succeed because “you go back to when John F. Kennedy cut taxes, you go back to the last time we transformed our tax code, 1986, when Ronald Reagan was president, you can go to the Clinton years — every time we have cut taxes, you have seen the economy takes off.”

He added that he has high confidence the Senate, which introduced its own version of tax reform, “is going pass this bill.”

But Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said today that he’s currently a “no” vote unless both the House and the Senate bill are altered to cater less to large corporations.

“Unfortunately, neither the House nor Senate bill provide fair treatment, so I do not support either in their current versions,” Johnson said. “I do, however, look forward to working with my colleagues to address the disparity so I can support the final version.”

The senator also told the Wall Street Journal, “If they can pass it without me, let them. I’m not going to vote for this tax package.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told MSNBC she’s “not going to make a final decision on the tax bill until I look at all of the provisions.”

“For example, I’m very concerned about the deduction being eliminated for state and local taxes. That’s a real issue as far as middle income tax relief,” she said. “…There are so many provisions, and the fact is this bill is still a moving target. For example, the House eliminated the medical expense deduction for people who have extraordinarily high medical costs. That’s back in, in the Senate version, I’m pleased to say.”

“But this really is still not a final product, but one of the other problems, about including some part of the Affordable Care Act repeal without any replacement in this bill is it guarantees that we will not get a bipartisan bill. And my goal would be to have a bipartisan bill.”