Several Republican senators who were considered swing votes on the GOP tax plan — a plan the chamber intends to vote on Friday night, without giving members sufficient time to even read the bill — have been swayed with flimsy promises by Republican leadership and the Trump administration.
“After securing significant changes, as well as commitments to pass legislation to help lower health insurance premiums, I will cast my vote in support of the Senate tax reform bill,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) tweeted Friday.
After securing significant changes, as well as commitments to pass legislation to help lower health insurance premiums, I will cast my vote in support of the Senate tax reform bill. (1/2) https://t.co/NhwtmYm22E
— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) December 1, 2017
Her concerns, she said in a statement, had been addressed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) promises to restore the state and local property tax deduction up to $10,000, and the inclusion of two amendments that address high unreimbursed health care costs and catch-up retirement account contributions.
Additionally, Collins said, she was concerned about the fact that the bill repeals the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will leave 13 million more people uninsured in the next 10 years, and the possibility of major cuts to the Medicare program. But Collins said McConnell had promised her that he would support the legislation to stabilize Obamacare markets and to eliminate the provision that could trigger $25 billion cuts to the health insurance program for seniors.
While Collins’ guarantees from leadership seem fairly strong, whether McConnell can get the votes from enough members of his caucus to pass the legislation for which he guaranteed his support is another story, and other senators swung by promises from McConnell and the administration are already seeing them fall to pieces.
On Friday afternoon, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) announced he would support the bill after securing a commitment from Senate leadership and the administration regarding a plan for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the elimination of an “$85 billion expensing budget gimmick in the bill.”
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
The DACA program grants 800,000 young immigrants in the U.S. relief from deportation and work authorization. Three months ago, the Trump administration ended the program with a six-month delay to give Congress time to find a permanent solution for DACA recipients.
But despite Flake’s claim that he got a “firm commitment,” PBS NewsHour reported that White House aide Marc Short said the only thing Flake had secured regarding DACA was to be included in the conversation.
Asked if Flake’s announcement meant there was any agreement on timing for or the substance of an immigration reform bill, Short said, “No, it is to include him in our talks.”
Flake is not the only senator who appears to have been misled.
On Thursday morning, his colleague from Arizona, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) announced he would be supporting the bill.
After careful consideration, I have decided to support the Senate #TaxReform bill. Though not perfect, this bill will deliver much-needed reform to our tax code, grow the economy & provide long overdue tax relief for American families. https://t.co/BeWZAT0SjM pic.twitter.com/6qwYhmyE5p
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) November 30, 2017
In his statement announcing his support, McCain said, “I take seriously the concerns some of my Senate colleagues have raised about the impact of this bill on the deficit. However, it’s clear this bill’s net effect on our economy would be positive.”
That the bill would “pay for itself” has been a central promise made over and over again by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, but it’s simply untrue.
On Thursday afternoon, the Joint Committee on Taxation, a nonpartisan congressional committee, released its analysis of the bill, which estimated that the GOP’s tax plan would add $1 trillion to the deficit. Even the most generous analyses from conservative groups do not show that the bill will “pay for itself.”
Senate Republicans intend to vote on their tax plan Friday night. The text of the bill was not given to the senators voting on the plan until just after 5:00 p.m. Friday. If the legislation is signed into law, it will raise taxes on middle class people making between $40,000 and $50,000 a year by more than $5 billion while cutting taxes by more than $5.5 billion for people making more than $1 million a year.