President Donald Trump forged important progress Tuesday in his effort to convince Republicans to unify and pass a huge tax bill that would represent his first significant legislative win and deliver on the Republican Party’s monopoly on Washington power.
Trump rallied Republican senators at a luncheon on Capitol Hill ahead of a crucial Senate Budget Committee hearing that had loomed as a cliffhanger moment in the effort to pass the bill.
Moments after he left the Capitol, two key Republican senators on that committee, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Bob Corker of Tennessee, who had been holding out for more concessions to meet their different concerns about the measure, told CNN they would vote for it.
A short time later, the budget panel passed the tax measure via party line, 12-11, to send the package to the Senate floor. Republican leaders hope to hold a vote on final passage later this week.
But even as he earned one victory, Trump’s plans to choreograph the other half of a year-end political dance to fund the government and avoid a federal shutdown crashed to a halt.
Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, who had been due to sit down with Trump and GOP leaders at the White House Tuesday, abruptly pulled out of the talks, blaming an early morning tweet in which the President said he saw no possible deal to reconcile their demands with his program.
The twin showdowns reflect how Trump, and Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, are using a crunch of year-end business to seek wins that will define 2017 in Washington and set up next year’s midterm elections.
Republicans have shown every sign that they are desperate to pass anything to alleviate pressure from their voters who are fuming at their failure to leverage their monopoly on Washington power.
Trump, meanwhile, is fulminating about the need for a win after promising his own supporters that his presidency would be one long victory lap.
But the rush to pass anything may cause Republicans to discount the long-term political implications of a bill that independent surveys show does far more to enrich the already wealthy than to lift the working and middle classes.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed optimism the bill would pass in the next few days but admitted that putting together the winning majority on such a “big, complicated” bill was challenging.
“Think of sitting there with a Rubik’s Cube, trying to get to 50,” McConnell said.
Schumer tried to stoke Republican jitters that the tax bill could turn out to be a long-term political liability by warning that massive legislation passed in haste rarely worked out well for the American people.
“Let it sit out there in the sun … and let it bake,” he said, demanding more time for Americans to understand the implications of the proposal.
Poor Americans would lose billions of dollars in federal benefits under the proposal, according to the CBO report, largely because the measure eliminates the mandate forcing most Americans to get health insurance.
Many of those who would forgo coverage would have lower or moderate incomes and would have qualified for Medicaid or federal help paying their premiums or out-of-pocket health expenses, the CBO found.
The legislation would make multiple changes to the tax code, but the vast majority of individual tax cuts would expire after 2025.
These include changing the rates on individual tax brackets, nearly doubling the standard deduction, eliminating personal exemptions, expanding the child tax credit and repealing the state and local tax deduction.
Amid the drama of a quintessential Washington cliffhanger Tuesday, it was unclear whether the uncertainty was typical of habitual deal-making and brinkmanship over the fate of a major bill, or whether tax reform measure, a hugely significant political lift for Republicans was actually in trouble.
Given the debacle over the failure to repeal Obamacare earlier this year, tax reform has become a must-win for the GOP and is the last chance for Trump to claim a legacy building achievement at the moment — in his debut year in office — when the President’s power is traditionally at its apex.
In typical bullish form, Trump is publicly expressing great confidence that the bill — which he claims represents the biggest tax cut in history — will pass.
“With just a few changes, some mathematical, the middle class and job producers can get even more in actual dollars and savings and the pass-through provision becomes simpler and really works well!” Trump said in his latest tweet on the tax bill.
But Republican Senate leaders, handicapped by their narrow two-vote advantage over Democrats, still lacked the votes to ensure that a bill that could be sent to the Senate floor as early as Wednesday can pass. The measure has already sailed through the House.
Ahead of Trump’s meeting, the President, Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and even first daughter Ivanka Trump, have been on a lobbying blitz behind the scenes, sources told CNN.