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Flush with momentum, GOP speeds toward tax votes

The final pieces of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTillerson: Russia already looking to interfere in 2018 midterms Dems pick up deep-red legislative seat in Missouri Speier on Trump's desire for military parade: 'We have a Napoleon in the making' MORE’s sweeping tax overhaul fell into place on Friday, giving Republicans a surge of momentum just days before they cast historic votes on the $1.5 trillion bill in the House and Senate.

Two high-profile Senate GOP holdouts — Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPentagon: War in Afghanistan will cost billion in 2018 K.T. McFarland officially withdrawn as nominee for ambassador K.T. McFarland withdraws as nominee for ambassador MORE of Tennessee and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump must send Russia powerful message through tougher actions McCain, Coons immigration bill sparks Trump backlash Taking a strong stance to protect election integrity MORE of Florida — flipped from "no" to "yes" on the tax bill Friday afternoon, all but guaranteeing that Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDems confront Kelly after he calls some immigrants 'lazy' McConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Overnight Defense: Latest on spending fight - House passes stopgap with defense money while Senate nears two-year budget deal | Pentagon planning military parade for Trump | Afghan war will cost B in 2018 MORE (R-Ky.) will have the 51 votes needed to pass the legislation in the upper chamber.  

Heading into the weekend, GOP lawmakers and leadership aides were extremely bullish that the 503-page Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would pass the House on Tuesday, then narrowly clear the Senate either Tuesday evening or Wednesday.

That would hand Trump and congressional Republicans their first major legislative victory since they took over full control of Washington last January. It also would fulfill Trump’s pledge to sign the tax-cuts bill into law by Christmas Day.

“This is happening. Tax reform under Republican control of Washington is happening." Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Overnight Defense: Latest on spending fight - House passes stopgap with defense money while Senate nears two-year budget deal | Pentagon planning military parade for Trump | Afghan war will cost B in 2018 House passes stopgap spending measure with defense money MORE (R-Wis.) said Friday afternoon during a conference call with rank-and-file House Republicans, according to a source on the call. “Most critics out there didn’t think it could happen. ... And now we’re on the doorstep of something truly historic.”

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsHouse passes stopgap spending measure with defense money Senate leaders say they're zeroing in on two-year budget deal Republican agenda clouded by division MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the far-right Freedom Caucus, said it’s inevitable that GOP lawmakers won’t agree with every part of the tax bill. But by next week, he said, Republicans will come together to deliver a bill to Trump.

“I anticipate a number of members expressing concern over a variety of topics in the coming days, but there is a commitment to finish the work and put it on the president’s desk by Wednesday,” Meadows, who is close to Trump, told The Hill.

“I am extremely optimistic that we can overcome any remaining issues.”

House and Senate negotiators signed off on the final language of the bill Friday afternoon, meaning no more amendments or last-minute changes can be made.

The final text made the child-tax credit refundable up to $1,400, up from $1,100. That tweak was enough to appease Rubio and Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeRubio on push for paid family leave: ‘We still have to work on members of my own party’ National ad campaign pushes Congress to pass legislation lowering drug prices Senate Republicans call on Trump to preserve NAFTA MORE (R-Utah) and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTrump rallies Republicans: ‘We’re just getting started’ Senate Republicans call on Trump to preserve NAFTA Steve Wynn resigns as RNC finance chair after sexual misconduct allegations MORE (R-S.C.). Earlier, Rubio had threatened to vote against the bill without more generous tax breaks for families with children.

“For far too long, Washington has ignored and left behind the American working class. Increasing the refundability of the Child Tax Credit from 55% to 70% is a solid step toward broader reforms which are both Pro-Growth and Pro-Worker,” Rubio tweeted Friday.

Corker, the retiring Senate Foreign Relations chairman who’s feuded on and off with Trump, objected to the bill over concerns it adds to the nation’s $20 trillion debt. But shortly after Rubio’s endorsement, Corker said he, too, was reversing course.

The tax bill is “far from perfect,” Corker said in a statement. “But after great thought and consideration, I believe that this once-in-a-generation opportunity to make U.S. businesses domestically more productive and internationally more competitive is one we should not miss. ...

“In the end, after 11 years in the Senate, I know every bill we consider is imperfect and the question becomes is our country better off with or without this piece of legislation. I think we are better off with it. I realize this is a bet on our country’s enterprising spirit, and that is a bet I am willing to make.”

With Rubio and Corker now on board, none of the 52 GOP senators are publicly opposed to the tax bill. Because of the narrow margin, it would take opposition from just three GOP senators to kill the tax overhaul.

Sens. Lee, Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration GOP senators turning Trump immigration framework into legislation Longtime Clinton confidant blames Comey for 2016 loss MORE (R-Maine) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeMcConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Huckabee Sanders: Dems need to decide if they 'hate' Trump 'more than they love this country' Trump spokeswoman fires back at Flake: 'His numbers are in the tank' MORE (R-Ariz.) have not taken a position on the final bill, but each voted in favor of the tax bill that recently passed the Senate.

The two other wild cards are Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Meghan McCain: Melania is 'my favorite Trump, by far' Kelly says Trump not likely to extend DACA deadline MORE (R-Ariz.) and Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranMcConnell urging Mississippi gov to appoint himself if Cochran resigns: report A pro-science approach to Yucca Mountain appropriations Senate Republicans call on Trump to preserve NAFTA MORE (R-Miss.). Both veteran senators back the tax bill but have missed votes all week due to health reasons. Cochran, the Appropriations chairman, is recovering from a procedure to remove a non-melanoma lesion on his nose.

Meanwhile, McCain, the Armed Services chairman who was diagnosed with brain cancer this summer, has been receiving treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center for side effects from his ongoing cancer therapy. A number of GOP lawmakers and aides on Friday expressed concern over McCain’s weakening health and said they were not certain he would be able to attend next week’s vote.

The health conditions of the two senior senators is so serious that GOP leaders tentatively have rearranged the vote schedule for the tax bill, Republican sources told The Hill.

The original plan was for the Senate to vote first. But on Friday, Ryan and Ways and Means Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyOvernight Finance: Senators near two-year budget deal | Trump would 'love to see a shutdown' over immigration | Dow closes nearly 600 points higher after volatile day | Trade deficit at highest level since 2008 | Pawlenty leaving Wall Street group Lawmakers discuss extending expired tax breaks in spending bill Dow falls more than 1,000 in biggest daily point-drop ever MORE (R-Texas) announced on the conference call that the House would go first, participants said. By having the House vote first, Senate Republicans could simply hold an up-or-down vote on the House-passed bill, sources said.

But if the Senate went first, Democrats would have the ability to demand a series of procedural votes on “motions to instruct” — a drawn-out process that would be physically taxing on the ailing McCain and Cochran.  

Having the House vote first “speeds up the process over there,” a senior House GOP lawmaker explained.

For insurance, Vice President Pence, who also serves as the president of the Senate, has delayed his trip to the Middle East in the event Republicans need him to cast a tie-breaking vote, as he’s done several times this year.

According to highlights unveiled Friday evening, the final tax bill would lower individual rates and set rates at 10 percent, 12 percent, 22 percent, 24 percent, 32 percent, 35 percent and 37 percent. It also repeals ObamaCare’s individual mandate requiring Americans to have health insurance. And it expands the use of 529 accounts, allowing families to save for elementary, secondary and higher education.

“At the end of day, everybody is coming to the table in good faith to get to yes,” said moderate Rep. Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedA path to break the immigration impasse Diabetes research at risk due to funding lapse, groups warn Collins and Manchin hear McCain’s call to service MORE (R-N.Y.), a member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee and co-chairman of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.