Republican tax bill advances in Senate

WASHINGTON – The Republican push to rewrite the tax code gained momentum Tuesday after a Senate panel advanced the measure and several wavering lawmakers signaled that they are leaning toward backing the bill.

Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee unanimously voted to send the party’s tax package to the Senate floor, setting up a final vote as soon as this week. The measure moved forward when two GOP senators on the committee who had threatened opposition, Sens. Bob Corker, Tenn., and Ron Johnson, Wis., instead supported the legislation.

Corker said he had reached an agreement with GOP leaders that would limit the tax plan’s impact on the debt. Johnson, who has repeatedly threatened to vote against the bill because he says it favors corporations over other businesses, said he continued to have concerns but voted to “make sure this process moves forward.”

While the bill now heads to the Senate floor, it remains unclear whether Republicans have the 50 votes they need for final approval. GOP leaders still have to corral several on-the-fence members of their caucus, who have different and contradictory demands.

But getting the legislation to the floor represents a significant victory for President Trump and Republican leaders, who are trying to deliver a major legislative accomplishment after a year full of misfires.

Trump on Tuesday visited Republicans at the Capitol to cajole skeptical lawmakers. During his visit, he clashed with Johnson over the senator’s demands but appeared to make substantial progress toward winning another key vote, from Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

In a private meeting with Collins before lunch, and again in front of the larger group of Republicans, Trump signaled openness to Collins’s demands, which include paying federal subsidies to help lower-income Americans afford health coverage and allowing Americans to continue deducting up to $10,000 in property taxes from their taxable income.

“It’s certainly progress,” said Collins, who played a central role in derailing GOP health-care bills this year.

McConnell said Tuesday that he intends to press forward with the bill in the coming days, eyeing passage by the week’s end.

“It’s going to have lots of adjustments before it ends, but the end result will be a very, very massive . . . tax cut,” Trump said.