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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 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.) 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 TrumpBiden prepares to confront Putin Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting Senate investigation of insurrection falls short 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 McCainMeghan McCain: Harris 'sounded like a moron' discussing immigration Arizona AG Mark Brnovich launches Senate challenge to Mark Kelly Arizona Democrats launch voter outreach effort ahead of key Senate race MORE (R-Ariz.), who is being treated at Walter Reed Medical Center.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynRising crime rejuvenates gun control debate on campaign trail Bipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua Bipartisan Senate group announces infrastructure deal 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's announcement Friday came shortly after fellow GOP Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFive years after the Pulse nightclub massacre the fight for LGBTQ+ rights continues Rubio calls on Biden to 'forcefully' confront Iran over movement of war ships Bipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua MORE (Fla.) came out in support of the tax legislation. Rubio had told reporters he was a "no" on Thursday as he angled to get changes made to the child tax credit.

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 CochranBottom line Bottom line Alabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future 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 LeeGOP senators press Justice Department to compare protest arrests to Capitol riot Matt Stoller says cheerleading industry shows why antitrust laws are 'insufficient' Senate chaos: Johnson delays exit as votes pushed to Friday MORE (Utah), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsPelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals Collins says infrastructure bill won't have gas tax increase or undo 2017 tax reform bill What the Democrats should be doing to reach true bipartisanship MORE (Maine) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeOn The Trail: Arizona is microcosm of battle for the GOP Trump looms large over fractured Arizona GOP Why Republican politicians are sticking with Trump 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.