Latest on the tax bill: GOP making major changes

Following Senate tax vote U.S. bishops urge congressional fix of “fundamentally flawed” bills

The Republicans eye a crucial final vote Friday on the $1.4 trillion Senate bill carrying the hopes of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party to preserve their majorities in next year's elections.

"I sought assurance and I was given assurance that I will be at the table" when Senate-House bargainers write a compromise version of the bill, Johnson said of talks he had with GOP leaders Thursday night.

Late in the day, however, three Republicans, led by Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, clung to a demand that proposed tax cuts would be pared back if future USA economic performance did not meet projections.

Another faction to be reckoned with: senators supporting millions of businesses whose owners report the firm's profits on their individual tax returns. "That disparity between the USA tax code and foreign tax rates has literally chased jobs and wages out of this country". GOP leaders' main concern was winning over the hawks anxious about adding more red ink to the mounting $20 trillion deficit. Republicans hold a 52-48 majority over Democrats in the Senate and have Vice-President Mike Pence to break any tie votes.

On the brink of securing a badly needed victory, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told reporters as he emerged from a morning meeting with colleagues: "We have the votes".

Only hours earlier, Republicans appeared poised to pass a massive restructuring of federal taxes and deal a stinging defeat to Democrats.

In a dramatic turn, Democrats forced a vote on whether to return the measure to the Senate Finance Committee so it could be rewritten to ensure smaller deficits.

Corker has pushed to add automatic tax increases in future years if the package doesn't raise as much revenue as projected. The projection left the votes of several GOP lawmakers in doubt, including Corker and Flake.

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Flake said the "trigger" tax increases would raise about $350 billion over 10 years, though he didn't specify which taxes would go up.

The overall legislation would bring the first overhaul of the USA tax code in 31 years.

The Club for Growth, for example, issued a vote alert after the standoff on the Senate floor that "urges all Senators to vote NO on any amendment that will increase any of the corporate or individual tax rates established in the proposal that was approved by the Senate Budget Committee".

Negotiations hit a snag Thursday night after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that Corker's idea of a deficit trigger, which would undo some of the bill's deepest tax cuts if they failed to stimulate the economy, didn't comply with the chamber's rules. Right now the bill would permanently cut the corporate tax to 20 percent but delay the rate reduction by one year, so it would take effect in 2019. Both the Senate and House bills end deductibility of state and local tax income and sales tax.

Oklahoma's Lankford came aboard on Friday after having questioned whether tax revenues from economic growth would compensate for the expected increase in the national debt under the plan. That's far short of the $2 trillion promised by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. As of Thursday morning, the possible GOP holdouts included John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, Steve Daines of Montana, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Bob Corker of Tennessee, and Jeff Flake of Arizona. The current Senate bill completely eliminates the federal deduction for state and local taxes, a popular benefit in the Democratic-leaning states of New York, New Jersey, California and IL as well as many wealthy suburbs nationwide.

However, Collins said and other lawmakers confirmed she successfully secured one of her major asks: a restoration of a property tax deduction up to $10,000.

A key House Republican said that any stopgap spending to avert a government shutdown December 8 should keep the government open into January instead of rushing work on an omnibus spending bill in hopes of beating a Christmas deadline.

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