"We have the votes." So declared Mitch McConnell Friday on the GOP's bid to push a $1.4 trillion tax bill through the Senate. The final vote in the chamber is expected to come later Friday. The Senate majority leader's comment came soon after the No. 2 Senate GOP leader, John Cornyn of Texas, said the same, per the AP. With the party controlling the Senate 52-48 and Democrats uniformly opposed, Republicans need 50 votes to win approval; VP Pence would break a tie. The measure's momentum was boosted Friday when Sen. Ron Johnson said he'd vote for it after leaders agreed to his demand to make tax breaks more generous for millions of businesses. Sen. Steve Daines also backed the legislation after winning an increase in the business income deduction from 17.4% to 20%.
The bill seemed to be sailing toward passage Thursday, until a report out of the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimated the package would produce budget deficits totaling $1 trillion over the next 10 years. Advocates say the measure's tax cuts will spark enough economic growth to pay for the lowered levies. The projection left the votes of several GOP senators in doubt, including Tennessee's Bob Corker and Arizona's Jeff Flake; Maine's Susan Collins is also up in the air. Cornyn said leaders are still working on any holdouts. Senate passage would push Congress a step closer to the first rewrite of the nation's tax code in 31 years. Unlike the House tax bill recently passed, the Senate measure would end the Obama requirement that people pay a tax penalty if they don't buy health insurance.
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