By: Deborah Barfield Berry – usatoday.com December 17, 2017
Republicans were touting plans Sunday to vote on a measure this week that would overhaul the nation’s tax system and give them a much-needed legislative victory as Congress wraps up the year.
Sen. John Cornyn, one of the Senate Republican leaders, said he’s confident the Senate will approve the tax bill and vote on it as soon as Tuesday.
“This is good news for the American people,’’ Cornyn of Texas said on ABC’s This Week. “We’re going to get the economy roaring back again and improve pay, increase jobs and make America more competitive in the global economy as well as simplifying the tax code and giving everybody in every tax bracket a tax cut.’’
Passage of the tax bill would be a legislative win for Republicans, including President Trump, who have vowed to make it a priority this year. Trump has said he had hoped to sign the tax bill by Christmas.
“As a candidate, I promised we would pass a massive TAX CUT for the everyday working American families who are the backbone and the heartbeat of our country,’’ Trump tweeted Sunday. “Now, we are just days away…’’
The measure passed its final procedural hurdle Friday when Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said Republicans had signed off on the report of a House-Senate conference committee.
“We’re on the one-yard line and we intend to punch it in in a good strong way on Tuesday,” Brady said on Fox Sunday Morning Futures.
Brady said this will be the last April Americans will have to file under this “horrible broken tax code, so there is a lot to be happy about.”
It also got a boost Friday when Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Bob Corker of Tennessee vowed to support the measure.
Rubio said he would support the bill after negotiators included provisions to raise the child tax credit. Corker, who had held back support because he said it raised the deficit, said Friday the nation was “better off with it” than without it.
Republicans have only a 52-48 majority in the Senate so they can afford to lose only two GOP votes and still pass a bill. Vice President Mike Pence has been a tiebreaker during crucial votes earlier this year.
Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine were undecided about the tax bill Friday.
Cornyn said Republicans had been trying to “cobble together the votes we needed to get this bill passed at the same time maintaining the integrity of the largest tax cuts were going to be seeing since 1986.”
Senate Democrats, who have voted against earlier tax bills, are expected to oppose this measure.
Democrats have slammed the GOP tax reform effort, saying it favors the rich over middle-class families.
“This is a total betrayal of President Trump’s economic populist message on the campaign trail,’’ Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said on This Week. “It’s a huge giveaway to big corporations. Millions of middle class taxpayers will see their taxes go up, even though Republicans promised that would not happen.’’
Van Hollen said under the plan millionaires will get an average tax break of $35,000 a year.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, however, called the tax bill “historic.’’
Mnuchin said a family of four making $75,000 will get about $2,000 a year in tax cuts, while a family of four making $150,000 will get about a $4,000 tax cut.
“This is a huge opportunity for creating job, creating tax cuts for working families,” he said on CNN’s State of the Union. “This is all about fixing a broken tax system.”
Despite the momentum, there was also concern among Republicans last week about the health of two senators.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is undergoing treatment for brain cancer and was hospitalized last week at Walter Reed Medical Center.
McCain’s daughter, Meghan, thanked supporters for “their kind words” in a tweet Sunday afternoon.
“My father is doing well and we are all looking forward to spending Christmas together in Arizona,” she wrote.
Later Sunday, Trump said McCain “is going through a tough time” but that he would return to Washington if necessary.
Republicans can only two lose votes and still pass a bill with Pence breaking the tie.
Trump told reporters at the White House late Sunday he wished McCain well.
“The word is John would come back if we need his vote,” he said. “He’s going through a very tough time.”
Sen. Thad Cochran, R- Miss., had outpatient surgery last Monday to remove a lesion on his nose, which his office said was more extensive than expected, but that the senator is doing well.
“Sen. Cochran is in Washington and expects to vote for the tax plan when it comes to the Senate,” said Chris Gallegos, a spokesman for Cochran.