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What It Took To Convince Final Holdouts To Support The GOP Tax Bill


We're going to start the program today in Washington, where the most sweeping tax overhaul in decades now seems poised for a vote next week. The House and Senate released a final plan for the legislation, which includes, among other things, temporarily lowering individual tax rates, cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent and allowing homeowners to deduct the interest on mortgages of up to $750,000. Ultimately, there was enough to convince holdouts in the Senate, including Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, to get on board yesterday. Here to look ahead to next week's vote is NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell. Welcome.


SUAREZ: So let's start with those holdouts. How did the Republicans get Corker and Rubio to drop their objections at the last minute yesterday?

SNELL: Well, the first person that I think is really important to look at here is Rubio because he did get something out of this deal. The big concession that they were able to achieve is that these refundable portion of the child tax credit, which is the credit that people can claim when they have children, was increased to $1,400. Now, that's mostly important for people who don't make enough money to have a tax bill at the end of the year but are working and paying payroll taxes on every paycheck. So those people will be able to see a bigger check back from the IRS at the end of the year. Now, that was a critical thing for Rubio. He's been campaigning for it since 2015, and that was added at the last minute to get him onboard.

SUAREZ: Now, Bob Corker's misgivings involved any package that would add significantly to the deficit. He's already said he's not seeking re-election in 2018. The package does add to the deficit. So what's in it for him?

SNELL: Well, there's nothing specifically in it for him the way there was for Rubio but he's a businessman. He is somebody who truly believes in the idea that cutting taxes and lowering barriers for businesses will make them create more jobs. And so he says that he thinks, on balance, this tax bill will do that more than he originally anticipated. I talked to him a little bit last week, and he said his biggest concerns were on the individual side of the tax code. He was worried that there were going to be too many tax cuts there, but he seems to now think that, on balance, this is a good thing.

SUAREZ: Is this still the once-in-a-generation tax reform Speaker Paul Ryan has been promising?

SNELL: It would be if Democrats weren't so dead set on reversing it sometime in the future. It's entirely possible that Democrats will make a very difficult decision at some point in time and say that they're OK allowing these tax breaks to increase. So, remember, the individual side of this tax bill expires after eight years. Democrats could, at some point in time, say that, you know, they don't believe that these tax cuts are good for the economy and they could let them be reversed. It could become another political fight in a very short amount of time.

SUAREZ: And do we know, with any precision, when the actual vote is going to happen?

SNELL: We don't know exactly what day, but we're expecting sometime - maybe Monday or Tuesday - the Senate will start the process. The goal is to have this all wrapped up by middle of the week next week.

SUAREZ: Is there any chance that the health of John McCain or Thad Cochran could interfere here?

SNELL: Republicans were concerned for some time that the health of at least two of their senators might interfere with the vote. But it looks like they have enough votes for them to hit 50, even if Cochran or McCain or both are out sick.

SUAREZ: NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell. Thanks a lot.

SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.
Ray Suarez