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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 CornynFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke debate showdown Live coverage: Cruz faces O'Rourke in Texas debate showdown Trump, Feinstein feud intensifies over appeals court nominees 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 CorkerOvernight Defense: Trump shifts tone on Saudis | New pressure from lawmakers | Trump: 'Certainly looks' like Khashoggi dead | Pompeo gives Saudis days to wrap up investigation | Trump threatens military action on border to stop migrants Trump changes tone on Saudi Arabia amid mounting pressure The Hill's 12:30 Report — Mnuchin won't attend Saudi conference | Pompeo advises giving Saudis 'few more days' to investigate | Trump threatens military action over caravan MORE (R-Tenn.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeMnuchin pulls out of Saudi conference The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns On The Money: Treasury official charged with leaking info on ex-Trump advisers | Trump to seek 5 percent budget cut from Cabinet members | Mnuchin to decide by Thursday on attending Saudi conference MORE (R-Ariz.) by securing the support of other holdouts. 

Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senator seeking information on FBI dealings with Bruce Ohr, former DOJ lawyer Election Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms Senate Homeland chair vents Mueller probe is preventing panel from receiving oversight answers MORE (R-Wis.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesTrump administration could use military bases to export coal, gas McConnell: No one is going to beat Murkowski in Alaska Murkowski brushes off GOP backlash: 'I'm good with' Kavanaugh vote 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 CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns Susan Collins and the mob mentality Graham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh 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 McConnellOvernight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump says GOP will support pre-existing condition protections | McConnell defends ObamaCare lawsuit | Dems raise new questions for HHS on child separations Poll finds Dems prioritize health care, GOP picks lower taxes when it's time to vote The Hill's 12:30 Report — Mnuchin won't attend Saudi conference | Pompeo advises giving Saudis 'few more days' to investigate | Trump threatens military action over caravan 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.