The Senate tax reform bill cleared another hurdle last night after the upper chamber approved the motion to proceed on a straight party-line vote, 52-48. Despite the movement, the policy divides that have given many Republican senators pause in supporting the proposal are still salient and a series of changes are likely to come in the form of a manager’s amendment to be submitted at the end of floor consideration. Debate on the bill will continue on the Senate floor today, with dozens of amendments from both parties lined up to be considered on the floor. A vote-a-rama is expected to start later today, concluding with the expected submission of the manager’s amendment that will likely make up the final text of the bill. If Republican leadership thinks they have the votes, a final up-or-down vote could come as early as tonight or may be pushed to tomorrow.
While Republicans have avoided defections so far, a handful of senators in the caucus have continued to express their reservations. Details on the ‘revenue trigger’ have yet to be formalized, putting the votes of Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and James Lankford (R-OK) into the questionable column. Sens. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) are still demanding more favorable treatment for pass-through businesses at the expense of a slightly higher corporate tax rate. And yesterday, a separate proposal from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) would also hike the corporate rate up a couple percentage points from the proposed 20 percent level to fund a more generous child tax credit, although those senators did not suggest that the provision is a red line for their vote for the package. As a reminder, Republicans can only afford two defections in order to pass the bill.
The House has three bills on its docket today, all to be considered pursuant to a rule. The first is a holdover from yesterday’s schedule, namely a partisan bill (H.R. 3905) that would reopen areas in northern Minnesota to copper and nickel mining and prohibit the creation of a new national monument in Minnesota without congressional approval. The second measure (H.R. 3017) due for a vote today would alter the federal government’s treatment of brownfields — a formal term for property that has been contaminated by hazardous waste — and reauthorize the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Brownfields Program. Finally, the House is set to vote on a measure (H.R. 4182) that would extend the probationary period for appointments to the competitive service and initial appointments as supervisors and managers to two years after the conclusion of formal training or upon receipt of any applicable formal license. This bill is also considered partisan as it passed out of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on a 19-17 vote earlier this month. The House is likely to break for the week after their final votes today.