Sen. Johnson first Republican opposed to tax bill

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Sunday shows — New impeachment phase dominates Rand Paul says Trump has 'every right' to withhold Ukraine aid over corruption MORE (R-Wis.) said on Wednesday that he will not support the Senate GOP tax plan, becoming the first GOP senator to say he will oppose the proposal.

“If they can pass it without me, let them,” Johnson told The Wall Street Journal. “I’m not going to vote for this tax package.” 

Senate Republicans have a narrow path to clearing the tax plan. With a 52-seat majority, if every Democrat votes no, they can only afford to lose two GOP senators and still have Vice President Pence break a tie.


Johnson confirmed in a statement that he currently opposes both the House and Senate tax plans, which, he argues, do not do enough to help "pass-through entities."

"These businesses truly are the engines of innovation and job creation throughout our economy, and they should not be left behind," Johnson said. "[I] look forward to working with my colleagues to address the disparity so I can support the final version.”

The Senate bill allows individuals to deduct 17.4 percent of income from pass-through businesses, and pass-through related provisions were updated in the modified bill released Tuesday night so that more income could qualify for the deduction.

But those tax breaks are temporary, compared to permanent cut to the corporate tax rate.

Johnson added to The Wall Street Journal that he has concerns about the proposal and that writers of the tax bill have been unreceptive to his input.

“I don’t like that process,” Johnson said. “I find it pretty offensive, personally.”

Johnson noted he has been trying to get hearings from both the Senate Finance Committee, which wrote the Senate bill, and the House Ways and Means Committee, but has been rebuffed by party leadership.

"It’s not like I’m just coming out of the woodwork all of a sudden raising it. I’ve been talking to my colleagues a long time. I presented my idea months ago," Johnson said.

Johnson's opposition to the tax plan is the latest hurdle for Republicans as they try to get a bill to President Trump's desk by the end of the year.

The Senate Finance Committee is expected to vote on the bill this week, with a full Senate vote expected after the week-long Thanksgiving recess.

As part of the vote-a-rama — an hours-long floor session — Johnson would be able to force a vote on any potential changes he wants to the tax plan.

Though Johnson is the first GOP senator to formally say they will oppose the current version of the proposal, other GOP senators have raised concerns about the plan.

GOP Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Kelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (Ariz.) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing GOP senators frustrated with Romney jabs at Trump MORE (Tenn.) have warned that the tax bill shouldn't impact the deficit.

"I remain concerned over how the current tax reform proposals will grow the already staggering national debt by opting for short-term fixes while ignoring long-term problems for taxpayers and the economy," Flake said in a statement after the Senate proposal was rolled out last week.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynFalling investment revives attacks against Trump's tax cuts GOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump says Dems shouldn't hold public hearings MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, immediately noted that Johnson was still open to working with Republicans to make changes to the tax plan. 

"Good news: Senator Johnson will work with colleagues with a goal of improving the bill to a form he can support," he said on Twitter, reacting to Johnson's statement. 

- This report was updated at 4:49 EST