At some point this evening, the House and Senate will have voted to pass their first major-agenda item — a massive tax-reform/stimulus bill. Or perhaps only the House will vote on it and fail, or maybe the House will pass it and the Senate will balk. Who knows?
The House gets the first crack at it in 90 minutes from this post:
The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the same legislation at 1:30 p.m. EST (1830 GMT). If both chambers of Congress pass the bill, Trump will be able to meet his goal of signing it into law before Christmas.
Assuming it passes the House, Mitch McConnell has scheduled a vote on it for sometime this evening. But can we assume that it will pass the House? It’s been all quiet on that front for the past few days; the House Freedom Caucus, which has at times obstructed GOP leadership on major legislation, signaled last week that they were on board — although not with an explicit and binding endorsement:
Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus said Thursday they support a sweeping tax package speeding toward votes in Congress next week, giving GOP leaders a boost from a key faction as they work to deliver a major legislative victory to President Donald Trump.
“I think it’s going to pass. I think you’re going to see the vast majority of the Freedom Caucus people vote for it,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana.
The leader of the caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said, “I know enough (about the agreement) to know that at this point, I don’t have any alarm bells going off.”
That’s not exactly cheerleading, but it’s not a warning flare either. The moderate Tuesday Group has been even more quiet about the bill. The general expectation is that the vote in the House should be tight but uneventful, even given the Republican proclivity for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
That proclivity might be felt more in the Senate. Supposedly, McConnell has his entire caucus united behind the bill. Susan Collins offered her endorsement yesterday, and potential holdout Mike Lee jumped on board as well:
Just finished reading the final Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. It will cut taxes for working Utah families. I will proudly vote for it.
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) December 18, 2017
However, John McCain’s absence (for health reasons) means that McConnell has very little margin for error. Bob Corker publicly lashed out over a change in the bill that will end up benefiting him, raising the potential for a reversal of his previous reversal on the tax bill. Hatch shut him up with a public response that argued that the media had misrepresented the change and that it wasn’t much of a change at all but part of a continuing negotiation.
Nevertheless, the term “Corker Kickback” started rolling around the media. Republicans had to go on offense to protect Corker:
Republicans rallied to GOP Sen. Bob Corker’s defense Monday, rejecting a report that the Tennessee lawmaker stealthily tucked a provision into the massive tax package to benefit himself financially and then reversed course to back the bill.
Democrats were unrelenting as they howled about the “Corker kickback” and argued the tax benefit for real estate developers boosts the wealthy — President Donald Trump, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Corker among them — at the expense of average Americans.
Is that enough to keep Corker in the fold and get to 51 votes? McConnell is taking no chances:
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will preside over the Senate’s vote on sweeping tax legislation, his office confirmed on Tuesday.
That can be described as a symbolic gesture as the Senate passes two of Donald Trump’s legislative priorities at once — tax reform and the repeal of the ObamaCare individual mandate. It can also be described as an insurance policy against the same kind of last-minute collapse that doomed the earlier efforts to pass ObamaCare repeal packages.
By the way, has anyone heard from Rand Paul recently? Just asking for a friend ….