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GOP Senators Push for Changes to Tax Reform Plan

Posted on November 21, 2017 by David van den Berg

From deficit concerns to the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, four GOP senators are airing their concerns about the Senate’s tax reform proposal, raising the stakes on a contentious bill where as few as three defections could scuttle the bill.

In television interviews November 19, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, became the latest Republican senator to raise concerns. On ABC’s This Week, she said that the bill “needs work,” while on CNN’s State of the Union, Collins said she plans to offer amendments on the Senate floor.

Other senators who’ve sounded off on the current state of the Senate proposal include Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who declared his opposition to the measure November 15 over its approach to taxing passthrough businesses; Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who raised concerns about the Senate bill’s impact on the federal deficit; and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who spoke out about the same issue for both the Senate and the House versions of the bill.

President Trump suggested November 19 in a derisive Twitter post that Flake was already a “no” vote because he was leaving his seat in 2018. The GOP’s two-vote majority in the Senate means that they can only afford two defections and still pass the bill in the face of apparently universal opposition from Senate Democrats.

ACA Mandate and the Corporate Rate

Collins said in both interviews that Senate taxwriters erred when adding a provision to the bill zeroing out the ACA’s individual mandate and called for its removal. She had previously said the provision complicated tax reform efforts.

If the mandate provision remains, Collins said in both interviews that she wants two bills passed to mitigate its impact. One is the bipartisan agreement between Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., to continue cost-sharing subsidy payments under the Affordable Care Act and the other is a measure Collins said she’s introduced with Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., to create high-risk insurance pools.

Alexander told CNBC’s John Harwood in an interview posted November 20 that his bill with Murray could be included in a year-end government funding package.

Collins also said in both interviews that the 20 percent reduction in the corporate tax rate is excessive, calling instead for a 22 percent rate in the ABC interview. In that interview, she also pushed for the Senate to adopt the House’s proposed itemized deduction for state and local property taxes rather than eliminate it altogether. Furthermore, in both interviews she called for maintaining the current top tax rate of 39.6 percent on taxpayers with incomes of $1 million or more.

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