GOP senator’s absence puts budget, tax reform on knife’s edge

GOP senator’s absence puts budget, tax reform on knife’s edge

Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranTodd Young in talks about chairing Senate GOP campaign arm US farming cannot afford to continue to fall behind Mississippi Democrat drops Senate bid MORE's (R-Miss.) health problems are keeping him from returning to the Senate this week — and have put the GOP budget on a knife’s edge.

The budget resolution, which would unlock the White House’s tax reform plan, needs a simple majority to pass the Senate.

With Cochran out for the time being, however, Republicans may have just 50 votes in favor of the budget. Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Nation editor: Reaction by most of the media to Trump-Putin press conference 'is like mob violence' Lewandowski: Trump-Putin meeting advances goal of world peace Rand Paul to travel to Russia after downplaying election meddling MORE (R-Ky.) is expected to vote against the resolution.

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That would still give the budget a 50-49 margin, but the GOP would not be able to afford another defection.

The budget includes reconciliation instructions that would shield a tax reform package from a Democratic filibuster.

It appears likely that the GOP will have the votes necessary to pass its budget even without Cochran and Paul.

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash Trump seeks to quell Russia furor MORE (R-Tenn.), for example, has put up sharp red lines on tax reform, saying he will not vote for a deficit-increasing proposal. But Corker pledged to support the budget to ensure the debate on tax reform would go forward.

Other GOP Senators who have bucked their party this year, such as Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE (Maine) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainPence, Pompeo urged Trump to clarify Russia remarks: report GOP lawmaker renews call for Trump to release tax returns after Putin summit House conservatives criticize media, not Trump, for Putin furor MORE (Arizona), have expressed willingness to advance the resolution.

Cochran's office announced on Monday that the Senator, who has been absent for weeks as he battles uncertain health, had developed a urinary tract infection, and would only return “when his health permits.”