GOP leaders back away from plan to shrink tax bill

GOP leaders back away from plan to shrink tax bill
© Keren Carrion

Senate Republican leaders are backing off their pledge to deficit hawks to shrink the size of the tax package by $350 billion to $400 billion.

Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynHillicon Valley: Experts worry North Korea will retaliate with hacks over summit | FBI works to disrupt Russian botnet | Trump officials look to quell anger over ZTE | Obama makes case for tighter regs on tech Senate GOP sounds alarm over Trump's floated auto tariffs Administration works to assuage critics over ZTE deal MORE (R-Texas) told reporters after a meeting Friday morning that is no longer in the bill.

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“It’s not in the bill,” he said.

Instead, GOP leaders worked around deficit-minded Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerHillicon Valley: Experts worry North Korea will retaliate with hacks over summit | FBI works to disrupt Russian botnet | Trump officials look to quell anger over ZTE | Obama makes case for tighter regs on tech Senate GOP sounds alarm over Trump's floated auto tariffs Biden, Corker honored with Freedom House human rights awards MORE (R-Tenn.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeOvernight Energy: Reporters barred from Day 2 of EPA summit | Dems blame Trump for gas price increases | Massachusetts to get new offshore wind farm Jeff Flake: Trump has 'debased' the presidency Senate Democrats look for traction on gas prices MORE (R-Ariz.) by securing the support of other holdouts. 

Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonHouse GOP sets three FBI interviews in Clinton probe Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — House passes 'right to try' drug bill | Trump moves to restrict abortion referrals House approves 'right to try,' sends bill to Trump's desk MORE (R-Wis.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesTrump signs Dodd-Frank rollback Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Senators offer tax bill aimed at helping first responders MORE (R-Mont.) say they now back the legislation because of concessions to help small businesses.

Leaders won over Johnson and Daines by increasing the deduction for pass-through businesses to 23 percent — up from the 17.4 percent originally set by the legislation.

Daines said the increased deduction will be paid for by increasing the tax rate on repatriated foreign earnings to match the House-passed bill.

Deprived of leverage, Flake announced around noon on Friday that he would vote yes, settling for less than the $350 billion reduction in the total size of the tax package that he and Corker held out for the day before.

Initially, Flake and Corker wanted a trigger that would automatically reduce the size of the tax package if the economy failed to grow as much as projected after six years.

Instead, Flake won a concession to eliminate what he called an “$85 billion expensing budget gimmick.”

He also obtained a promise from Senate GOP leaders to work with him on legislation to protect illegal immigrants who came to the country as children — the so-called Dreamers — from deportation.

“Having secured both of those objectives, I am pleased to announce I will vote in support of the tax reform bill,” he said in a statement.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — VA reform bill heads to Trump's desk Senate panel to consider ban on prescription drug 'gag clauses' Pressure rising on GOP after Trump–DOJ fight’s latest turn MORE (R-Maine), a key moderate, said before the Friday meeting that she is undecided but praised the negotiations as making “good progress.”

Collins said she would announce her position on the bill in a formal statement later Friday.

Lawmakers emerged from the meeting confident they would get a deal.

“We have the votes,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell says he backs Mueller probe after classified briefing Overnight Finance: Trump signs Dodd-Frank rollback | Snubs key Dems at ceremony | Senate confirms banking regulator | Lawmakers lash out on Trump auto tariffs Senate Dems’ campaign chief ‘welcomes’ midterm support from Clintons MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters as he walked onto the floor after the meeting.

“I feel very good,” said Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.). “Part of politics is drama. I’ve been in this business a long time and drama goes along with it, but don’t read too much into it.

“I think we’re going to have a good day,” he said.

- This report was updated at 12:24 p.m.