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US Senate Republicans pin down votes to pass tax bill - McConnell

US Senate Republicans pin down votes to pass tax bill - McConnell

Senate Republicans steamed toward passage of a $1.4 trillion tax bill Friday, overcoming eleventh-hour hitches in their drive to deliver a major legislative accomplishment to President Donald Trump by Christmas.

"We have the votes", he told reporters.

Unlike the House bill, for example, the Senate bill would end the insurance mandate at the core of the Affordable Care Act.

It just might be Ted Cruz's biggest victory as a senator: Helping stop in its tracks a plan late Thursday night to add $350 billion in tax increases to the Senate's tax bill to placate fellow Republican Senator Bob Corker's worries about the deficit.

Those rules prohibit Democrats from using a filibuster, which would require 60 votes to overcome, so Republicans can pass the bill with votes from 50 of their 52 members and the support of the vice president.

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The trigger amendment was needed to win Corker's vote and those of others anxious about the deficit - worries that intensified when congressional analysts said the bill would not boost the economy enough to offset the estimated deficit expansion, as the Trump administration had said it would.

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Daines and Johnson announced their support for the bill on Friday after winning more tax relief for non-corporate pass-through businesses.

Daines reached an agreement with leadership to raise the amount of pass-through income business owners can deduct. Holdout Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who asked GOP leaders for multiple changes to the bill, has not yet committed to supporting it. But GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida joined Democrats in saying he won't vote for the spending bill unless the immigrant issue is resolved. Some senators also want to change the Senate bill so that state and local property taxes are deductible up to $10,000, which would mirror legislation already passed by the House of Representatives.

The House bill, meanwhile, would tax the value of tuition waivers for graduate students employed as teaching and research assistants, dramatically hiking taxes on a modestly compensated workforce.

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Optimism had reigned earlier in the day, when the bill won the backing of Sen. Corker, along with Flake and Johnson, threatened to hold up the bill on Thursday after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that his "trigger" proposal ― which would have brought back certain taxes if the government failed to meet specific revenue targets ― could not be included in the reconciliation bill. If Corker were the lone GOP dissenter, the bill would pass 51-49.

The Arizona conservative announced in a statement on Friday that he would vote for the tax bill. It would have to be merged with the Senate bill, if it is approved, before any final measure could go to Trump for his signature.

Both the House and Senate bills would almost double the standard deduction to around $12,000 for individuals and about $24,000 for married couples.

Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the bill as now constructed gives too much of its benefits to corporations and that their plan to make the $2,000 credit fully refundable to low-income families "would level the playing field for families, while still kick-starting national investment and growth".

A key House Republican said that any stopgap spending to avert a government shutdown December 8 should keep the government open into January instead of rushing work on an omnibus spending bill in hopes of beating a Christmas deadline.

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