Senate Vote Expected Today On Tax Reform: What To Watch For
December 1, 2017 | The Senate Republicans seem poised to call for a vote on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 today. The Senate's version would then need to be passed by the House of Representatives again due to changes made to win over skeptical senators. This tax bill is the Republicans' attempt to reduce what they see as a “crushing burden” on American families and enterprise by doubling the standard deduction and reducing the corporate rate from 35% to 20%. Opponents of the bill believe any financial gain will be offset by reductions in benefits and the rising cost of healthcare premiums.
Democrats are concerned that the major beneficiary of this tax cut will be the wealthy. Republicans counter by stating the economic growth from this bill will benefit everyone. Critics are also worried about a number of riders that Republicans have attached to the bill. This includes a repeal of the individual mandate, a hallmark of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, that Democrats say could have disastrous repercussions on healthcare costs if passed. Democrats also worry about the repeal of State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT), which will drastically raise the taxes of people living in states with higher income taxes, as they will no longer be able to deduct them against federal taxes.
Another developing controversy is the bill's impact on high education. Students attending graduate level institutions would have their stipends taxed as income and could result in fewer Americans pursuing higher education. Democrats believe this will severely hinder the United States' ability to compete with other world powers in terms of intellectual and soft power.
What to Watch for:
All Senate Democrats have already come out against the bill. This means the GOP will have to find 50 votes—plus Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote—to pass the bill. They have a number of possible roads there, but will struggle to placate everyone. Because Republicans have a slim 52-48 majority, they can only stand to lose two votes on this bill.
Who to Watch for:
Susan Collins (R-ME)
Susan Collins has already come out as a firm no against this bill unless changes are made to the plan to the repeal of the individual mandate and SALT. These changes would be unpopular for the rest of Republicans and would likely lose a number of votes on the more conservative side of the party.
Bob Corker (R-TN)
Bob Corker is concerned about the deficit that the bill would create. Even after growth estimates of this bill, the deficit stands to rise by one trillion over the course of the next ten years. Corker, an ardent deficit hawk, needs to see more safeguards against rising deficits before he will commit to the bill. Unfortunately for the GOP, a number of senators have come out against such so called ‘tax triggers’, taxes that would be added if the deficit grows too much, including John Kennedy (R-LA) who stated, “I’d rather drink weed-killer than vote for [tax triggers].”
Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
This is the wildcard. Jeff Flake has been continually blasted by Trump on social media and could potentially deliver the fatal blow to what Trump considers his magnum opus. Flake has not shown much concern about the bill itself, but could personal vendettas be enough to sink the deal?
Neither Bob Corker nor Jeff Flake are seeking reelection, and while other senators have shown their oppositions to this bill, the route to its defeat likely runs through these three. Will the Republicans appease them enough to get their biggest win of 2017?
If It Does Not Pass
Much of the fervor surrounding this bill is due to the fact that despite Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress and the presidency, no major legislature has been passed since Trump's inauguration in January. There is much pressure on Republicans in both chambers to fall in line and pass something, even if in other circumstances, certain Republicans—like those mentioned above and possibly others—would not support this bill.
Where to Watch:
If you have access to a computer or tablet, you can watch the debates starting at 10 AM EST on c-span.org
Julian Strachan is pursuing is Master's in Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
No matter how you feel about this bill, positively or negatively, call your senators and let them know your thoughts.
The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of other Arbitror contributors or of Arbitror itself.
Photo credit: "U.S. Senator Bob Corker Visits Moldova" by U.S. Embassy Moldova with a (CC BY-ND 2.0) license. No changes were made to the original image. Use of this image is not endorsement from its creator.