Republicans in Congress on Thursday moved to put the finishing touches on a sweeping reform of the federal tax code, though the effort was endangered as a pair of GOP Senators signaled their opposition to a final child tax credit deal, while the health problems of two other GOP Senators also clouded plans for a final vote next week.
“There is no done deal yet from my perspective,” said Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) about the final tax reform bill. “It is not over.”
GOP aides had made clear to reporters on Wednesday that a tentative deal had been reached – even before the first official meeting of House-Senate negotiators – but it was obvious on Thursday afternoon that the entire tax plan was not yet set in legislative stone.
One of the bigger hot spots was with the details of the child tax credit, as Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) expressed irritation with the terms of the final agreement, as they said it didn’t go far enough to help lower income families. Rubio threatened to vote against the bill.
One tax negotiator saw little chance that Rubio would win any further change in the bill, arguing the Senate had prevailed over the House on that point in the negotiations.
“It was a hard fought victory for us,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). “We won everything on that child tax credit.”
Meanwhile, the White House expressed satisfaction with the terms of that deal as well.
“Look, we’re really proud of the work that we’ve done already up until this point, with Senator Rubio, already doubling the child tax credit, taking it to $2,000 per child,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“Senator Rubio will be there,” the President told reporters. “We’re doing very well on the tax front.”
In both the House and Senate, GOP vote counters were trying to make sure that enough Republicans would be on board in votes next week.
“I’m waiting to look at the whole bill,” said Rep. John Faso (R-NY), one of a number of Republicans from New York, New Jersey and California who were not pleased with the impact on taxpayers who itemize deductions.
One of the hurdles was the financial juggling act going on inside the GOP bill, as Republicans were arranging time limits on certain tax changes, which would make the overall plan seem less expensive.
“We’re literally trying to squeeze about $2 trillion in tax reform into a $1.5 trillion box and that’s been a problem,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).
Meanwhile, the health issues of two Senators were also raising concerns among Republicans, as Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) missed every vote in the Senate this week.
With the GOP advantage only 52-48, the absence of just one of those two ailing Senators could cause problems for Republicans on tax reform, especially if more than one Republican decides to vote against the final deal.