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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 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'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 PaulSaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Noisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? Lawmakers, Wall Street shrug off Trump's escalating Fed attacks 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 CorkerCorker: Trump administration 'clamped down' on Saudi intel, canceled briefing GOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia Poll: GOP's Blackburn holds slim lead in Tennessee Senate race 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 CollinsSusan Collins and the mob mentality Graham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh St. Lawrence alumni, faculty want honorary degree for Collins revoked MORE (Maine) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcConnell: GOP could try to repeal ObamaCare again after midterms Comey donates maximum amount to Democratic challenger in Virginia House race Live coverage: McSally clashes with Sinema in Arizona Senate debate 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.”