Senate Republicans trim tax bill to secure needed votes

By David Morgan and Amanda Becker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senate Republicans rallied around a U.S. tax overhaul bill on Friday, with Maine moderate Susan Collins announcing her support for it after obtaining agreements for several changes, giving the sweeping legislation sufficient votes to win passage.

In a legislative push moving so fast that a final draft of the bill was still unavailable late in the afternoon, Republican leaders were planning for an evening vote. Approval would launch talks, likely next week, between the Senate and the House of Representatives on crafting a single bill.

That would then go to the White House, where President Donald Trump was expected to sign it into law before the end of the year. The House, which has already approved its own bill, was expected largely to defer to the Senate measure.

In Senate speeches, Democrats hammered the bill as a giveaway to corporations and the rich that will balloon the federal deficit, but the Democrats lacked the votes to block it.

Six Republican senators whose commitments had been in doubt announced on Friday they would back the bill: Collins, Steve Daines, Ron Johnson, Jeff Flake, James Lankford and Jerry Moran. Republicans hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate.

Senator Bob Corker, a leading fiscal hawk who pledged early to oppose any bill that expanded the federal deficit, stood out as the lone remaining Republican dissenter. As drafted, the bill was projected to add $1 trillion in 10 years to the $20 trillion national debt, even after counting its boost to the economy.

“I am not able to cast aside my fiscal concerns and vote for legislation that … could deepen the debt burden on future generations,” said Corker, who is not running for re-election.

KEY CHANGES

While a Senate summary was unavailable, lobbyists and lawmakers identified some of the last-minute changes to the bill that could be added.

One was to make state and local property tax deductible up to $10,000, mirroring the House bill. The Senate previously had proposed entirely ending state and local tax deductibility.

Another was to put a five-year limit on allowing businesses to immediately write off the full value of new capital investments. That would phase out over three years starting in year six, rather than be permanent as initially proposed.

Under another change, the alternative minimum tax (AMT), both for individuals and corporations, would not be repealed in full. Instead, the individual AMT would be adjusted and the corporate AMT…

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