Following the GOP's triumphant announcement that their conference committee had reached a tentative deal for the party's tax plan, a threat by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Thursday to vote "no" unless the bill expands the child tax credit sparked hopes that the Republicans' tax overhaul remains vulnerable to defeat.
Speaking with reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday about his demands for expanding the child tax credit, Rubio said: "Right now it's only $1,100. It needs to be higher than that."
"I understand that this is process of give and take, especially when there's only a couple of us fighting for it, the leverage is lessened," he continued. "But given all the other changes they've made in the tax code leading into it, I can't in good conscience support it unless we are able to increase [the child tax credit], and there's ways to do it and we'll be very reasonable about it."
A spokesperson for Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)—who has partnered with Rubio to call for expanding the child tax credit—told the Washington Post and The Hill that Lee is currently undecided on whether he will support his party's tax bill. Although Rubio and Lee's amendment to expand the tax credit in the Senate's version of the bill was voted down earlier this month, both lawmakers ultimately voted to pass the Senate bill that was sent to the reconciliation panel.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) voted against the Senate's version of the bill and is expected to vote against the final version; however, Corker told The Hill he also hasn't made his final decision. While Senate Republicans could still pass their tax bill without support from Corker and Rubio, any additional "no" votes could stall the measure. The party controls 52 Senate seats and—with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence—the bill needs 50 votes to pass. It could be voted on as early as next week.
No Democrats are expected to vote in favor of the GOP tax plan, which has provoked months of nationwide protests. Considering its massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans, critics charge "this tax bill was written for Republicans' wealthy campaign contributors," and international economists warn it will "turbocharge inequality in America."
Michael Linden, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, outlined some of the current partisan threats to the Republican tax plan:
Ok folks, here's what just happened...— Michael Linden (@MichaelSLinden) December 14, 2017
The tax bill was at 51-49. In the last 2 days:
- Dems won a Senate seat in AL
- Rubio comes out against the bill without major changes
- Collins undecided
- Lee now undecided
- Flake didn't get what he asked for
This is not over!
Despite Thursday's threat, there was plenty of doubt that Rubio would ultimately vote against his party and the interests of his wealthy and corporate donors:
I don’t care what he says leading up to the vote, if you think Rubio is a “NO” on the tax vote, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.— jingle Bell (@matthewmu) December 14, 2017
He's Not Going To Save Us From This Crappy Tax Bill: The Marco Rubio Story— Ian Millhiser (@imillhiser) December 14, 2017
New uncertainty over the legislation's support from Republican senators comes at a time when party leaders are also concerned about the health of two GOP lawmakers—Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). Both senators have missed votes this week for medical reasons. McCain—who was diagnosed with brain cancer earlier this year—is in the hospital as part of his treatment plan.
Although a spokesperson for Cochran told CNN the senator plans to return next week for the tax vote, Cochran experienced health problems throughout the fall and is currently recovering from an outpatient surgery he had on Monday.
While Republicans worry about losing votes over the child tax credit debate and senators' health problems, progressives are demanding that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) "immediately" seat Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.)—who was elected Tuesday—before holding a final vote on tax bill, as Common Dreams reported this week.
GOP is doing everything they can to rush #GOPTaxScam through Congress, even suspending democracy. They know that newly elected Sen. @GDouglasJones will vote against this terrible bill.— For Tax Fairness (@4TaxFairness) December 14, 2017
The Senate must delay the tax vote until he is seated. #DelayforDoug https://t.co/SvBTmM4d8a
McConnell, however, is unlikely to delay the vote until Jones joins the Senate; in fact, "now that a Democrat is set to fill a Senate seat Republicans once viewed as securely theirs, the GOP is likely to move even more aggressively to get their tax bill to Trump's desk as soon as possible."