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Corker to support tax bill in boost to GOP

Corker to support tax bill in boost to GOP
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Dem Senator: Congress will act on death of Saudi journalist Democrats torch Trump for floating 'rogue killers' to blame for missing journalist MORE (R-Tenn.) said Friday that he will support the GOP tax plan, all but guaranteeing that Republicans will have the votes needed to pass their tax bill next week.

Corker said that the final legislation represents a "once-in-a-generation opportunity." His decision is a reversal from the Senate tax plan passed earlier this month, which he opposed over concerns that the bill would not pay for itself and would add to the deficit.

"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," Corker said in a statement Friday.

He added that "after many conversations over the past several days with individuals from both sides of the aisle across Tennessee and around the country ... I have decided to support the tax-reform package we will vote on next week." 

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GOP leadership and administration officials have been working with Corker to try to get him to support the final tax legislation despite his previous insistence that he would not vote for a plan that adds "one penny's worth of deficits."

The White House said President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East MORE expressed personal appreciation for Corker's support, indicating that the GOP senator had reached out by phone about his decision.

"The President greatly appreciates Senator Corker’s phone call and pledge to support tax cuts. He sees a great entrepreneurial spirit being released in our country and he is a part of that spirit. When these massive tax cuts and incentives kick in, jobs and growth will follow at a very high level," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

With Corker's support, Senate Republicans likely have the votes needed to pass their tax bill next week even as they face potential absences from some members, including Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainComey donates maximum amount to Democratic challenger in Virginia House race Live coverage: McSally clashes with Sinema in Arizona Senate debate Is there difference between good and bad online election targeting? MORE (R-Ariz.), who is being treated at Walter Reed Medical Center.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Live coverage: Cruz faces O'Rourke in Texas debate showdown Trump, Feinstein feud intensifies over appeals court nominees MORE (R-Texas) hinted earlier Friday that Corker could be a "yes" on the tax deal, saying there could be a "surprise" on who supports the legislation.

"I was thinking specifically about Sen. Corker who did not vote for the Senate bill, who we are working with and I think is encouraged by the direction that this House-Senate conference is going in," Cornyn told KSKY, a Texas radio station.

Corker acknowledged Friday that the tax deal, a compromise proposal that merges the House and Senate bills, "is far from perfect." 

"Left to my own accord, we would have reached bipartisan consensus on legislation that avoided any chance of adding to the deficit and far less would have been done on the individual side with items that do not generate economic growth," he said. 

Republicans have a 52-seat majority, meaning they can only afford to lose two GOP senators, if every Democrat and independent votes "no," and still permit Vice President Pence break a tie. 

McCain and Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranThe Hill's Morning Report — Kavanaugh ordeal thrusts FBI into new political jam GOP Senate candidate to African Americans: Stop begging for 'government scraps' Trump endorses Hyde-Smith in Mississippi Senate race MORE (R-Miss.) missed Senate votes this week. But Cochran's office noted that he will be back next week to vote for the tax plan. 

GOP Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenators pledge action on Saudi journalist’s disappearance Bernie Sanders: US should pull out of war in Yemen if Saudis killed journalist Senators warn Trump that Saudi relationship is on the line MORE (Utah), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGraham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh St. Lawrence alumni, faculty want honorary degree for Collins revoked 'Suspicious letter' mailed to Maine home of Susan Collins MORE (Maine) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeIMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East Saudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Election Countdown: Dems outraise GOP in final stretch | 2018 midterms already most expensive in history | What to watch in second Cruz-O'Rourke debate | Trump raises 0M for reelection | Why Dems fear Avenatti's approach MORE (Ariz.) have yet to say if they will support the final agreement, but they each voted for the Senate legislation.

– Jordan Fabian contributed 

Updated: 4:08 p.m.