Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says Republicans have the votes needed to pass a Senate tax reform bill that would increase the deficit by $1 trillion dollars — a deficit that means the Republican tax cut won’t pay for itself.
Shortly after McConnell’s announcement, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), an alleged hold-out vote, announced he will be voting in favor of the tax reform bill after “securing language to eliminate an $85 billion budget gimmick” and a legislative solution to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
I will support #TaxReform bill after securing language to eliminate an $85 billion budget gimmick as well as commitment from the administration & #Senate leadership to advance growth-oriented legislative solution to enact fair & permanent protections for #DACA recipients pic.twitter.com/MGbWX7JrPq
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) December 1, 2017
In September, President Donald Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — which currently offers 800,000 young immigrants temporary deportation relief and authorization to work in the United States. Congress has just three months left to find a permanent solution for DACA recipients. Recipients whose DACA work authorization cards expire before March 5, 2018 are allowed to apply for a two-year extension, but all other DACA recipients will once again be undocumented when their cards expire.
Flake said he secured a “firm commitment” from Senate leadership to work on a solution. But White House aide Marc Short later clarified to PBS NewsHour’s Lisa Desjardins that Flake’s deal is simply that the White House will include him in DACA talks. There is still no agreement on substance or even substance of an immigration reform bill.
WHAT DID FLAKE GET ON DACA?: WH aide Marc Short tells me he will be part of the conversation. ("Happy to include him".)
Me: Does that mean any agreement on timing (this year or no), substance?
Short: No, it is to include him in our talks.
— Lisa Desjardins (@LisaDNews) December 1, 2017
The Senate is expected to vote on a tax bill — which was largely negotiated behind closed doors — Friday evening, even though Senators still do not know what they are voting for yet (let alone the public).
While Flake believes he’s protecting immigrants in his deal, the Republican tax bill is disastrous for immigrants. More than 200 organizations — including the National Immigration Law Center — have urged congressional members to reject the Senate and House tax reform bills, which they called “anti-child and anti-immigrants proposals.”
“Both bills directly target approximately 1 million DREAMer children and their families, threatening to drive them into poverty,” the letter reads. “Targeting any children in a family will harm the family as a whole — and over 5 million children live in mixed-status households.”
The House tax bill specifically makes undocumented immigrants ineligible for tax credits, which could deprive millions of children of the benefit — including DACA recipients. The provision tucked away in the House tax bill could affect 4 million children with one document parent, as well as DREAMers (immigrants who came to the United States as children).
In other words, Flake is assuming he’ll be involved in DACA talks that help immigrants with zero guarantee, but both the Senate and House tax bill are real policies that threaten immigrant families.
Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Corker (R-TN) appear to be the only Republicans still on the fence on the tax bill. Corker has a problem with the deficit the tax bill would create, and Collins has cited a host of concerns. But McConnell appears to be making deals with Collins. Leadership looks to have promised Collins a SALT amendment, which would allow taxpayers to deduct $10,000 for state/local property taxes. They also promised her an Obamacare fix for repealing the individual mandate, which requires people to have insurance. Experts largely agree Collins’ proposed fixes won’t fully offset the damage that would be caused by repealing the individual mandate.