Senate Passes Republican Tax Reform Plan 51-49

Senate Republicans, after a flurry of last-minute deals, salvaged their tax plan early Saturday and put Congress on track to deliver President Trump’s most significant first-year accomplishment.

The ambitious package, opposed by Democrats as a giveaway to the wealthy that will pile on the national debt, challenges GOP orthodoxy against deficit spending. Even after accounting for future economic growth, the plan is estimated to add $1 trillion to the deficit over 10 years, despite Republican promises that the tax cuts will pay for themselves.

Still, all but one Republican voted to approve the bill. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, one of the GOP’s few remaining deficit hawks, joined all Democrats in opposing the plan in a 51-49 vote. The bill must now be reconciled with a House-passed version, a process that leaders hope to complete as early as next week.

Corker, who is retiring at the end of his term, voted no after he was unable to convince colleagues to install a mechanism to claw back some tax breaks in the future if they worsened the deficit.

“I am disappointed,” Corker said. “I wanted to get to yes. But at the end of the day, I am not able to cast aside my fiscal concerns and vote for legislation that I believe, based on the information I currently have, could deepen the debt burden on future generations.”

As recently as Friday morning, passage was uncertain after a tumultuous week that exposed deep fissures among Republicans. Complicating matters for Corker and others was a congressional report that doubted GOP assumptions that tax cuts would generate enough economic growth to cover their costs.

A planned procedural vote was abruptly canceled Friday morning as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell huddled with Republicans to address their concerns.

Republicans could lose just two votes from their 52-seat Senate majority to pass the bill, amid Democratic opposition. That gave almost every GOP senator an opening to push for a deal.