Key GOP holdouts advance tax bill after meeting with Trump

Key GOP holdouts advance tax bill after meeting with Trump
© Greg Nash

Two key holdouts on the Senate Budget Committee voted to advance the tax-reform bill after President Trump pressed them during a lunch meeting Tuesday.

Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonLiberal group launches campaign urging Republicans to support Biden's agenda Domestic extremists return to the Capitol GOP senator: Buying Treasury bonds 'foolish' amid standoff over debt ceiling, taxes MORE (R-Wis.) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Tenn.), who threatened to oppose the tax bill in the Budget Committee, on Tuesday voted to advance it.

“I think based on the progress we’ll go ahead and vote to move it forward,” Johnson said shortly before the Budget Committee was scheduled to consider the legislation.

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Republicans control 12 seats on the committee while Democrats control 11. The bill advanced in a 12-11 vote along party lines.

Trump called out Johnson by name twice during his meeting Tuesday afternoon with the entire Senate GOP conference and urged him to stop blocking the legislation.

“He told him to stop blocking it and to work out his concerns with the rest of the conference. He told him he would have a chance to offer amendments and he should stop being an impediment,” said a Senate GOP source familiar with the meeting. 

“He went at him twice by name,” the source added.

Johnson offered a different version of the conversation.

“Obviously he wants me, he encourages me to get to yes. That’s certainly what I want to do,” he said.

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“He might have said 'Ron' a couple times. I always say ‘Mr. President,’ ” Johnson quipped. 

Johnson said Trump did not tell him directly to stop blocking it.

If Johnson or Corker had voted "no," it would have been an embarrassing setback to the GOP leadership.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling Franken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Woodward: Milley was 'setting in motion sensible precautions' with calls to China MORE (R-Ky.) could have still brought the tax-reform legislation to the floor, but it would have been embarrassing not to get a majority vote for it in committee.

All Democrats on the panel voted "no."