GOP tax bill gains support; Senate leaders work on holdouts

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republican leaders wrangled with the last few GOP holdouts Thursday as they pushed toward passing the first major rewrite of the nation’s tax code in more than three decades, a package that would impact rich and the poor as well as businesses big and small.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he expected a final vote late Thursday or early Friday on a $1.4 trillion package that would slash the corporate tax rate, offer more modest cuts for families and individuals and eliminate several popular deductions.

Lawmakers would then try to reconcile the Senate package with one passed by the House in the hope of delivering a major legislative accomplishment to President Donald Trump by Christmas. Republicans have cast passage of a tax overhaul as a political imperative to ensure they hold their House and Senate majorities in next year’s midterm elections.

“We’re heading down the homestretch,” McConnell told reporters on Thursday.

Two Republican senators, John McCain of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, announced their support for the tax package Thursday, giving it a major boost. Both McCain and Murkowski had voted against the GOP bill to dismantle the Obama health care law this past summer in a blow to the GOP.

Their support is key because Senate Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority in the Senate, meaning they can only afford to lose two votes, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaker.

“It’s clear this bill’s net effect on our economy would be positive,” McCain said in a statement. “This is not a perfect bill, but it is one that would deliver much-needed reform to our tax code, grow the economy, and help Americans keep more of their hard-earned money.”

Murkowski said she supports the tax bill now that it would allow oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Murkowski got the provision added earlier this week, but the initial version violated arcane Senate rules about which provisions can be added to the tax bill.

Murkowski said Thursday the provision was tweaked to comply. “We have done it and we’re ready to go,” she said.

Drilling in the refuge has long been a contentious issue, pitting environmentalists against those who want to increase domestic oil production.

Senators were still grappling with several issues Thursday, including how to craft a trigger that would impose automatic tax increases if the tax package doesn’t raise as much revenue as projected. The provision would mollify…

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