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Dec 18 2017

Cut Cut Cut Bill: State of Play

I have a very bad feeling about this.

Yes, yes I have seen Last Jedi. No spoilers but I think the title is highly misleading.

I don’t want to get your hopes up as my expectation is that Republicans will find a way to pass this incredibly bad Bill, but there were some positive developments in terms of blocking it this weekend that give us, as Egon Spengler would say, “a very slim chance of survival.”

First of all, and this is kind of sad because I don’t wish anyone dead (I want them to linger and suffer), John McCain is going to an Arizona hospital for treatment of “side effects” from his cancer therapy and will not be back in the Senate before January at best. This is completely plausible as it is severely debilitating and the possibility of damaging other organs due to its extreme toxicity quite real. It may be he shall never return, the prognosis is not good and many people survive mere months after diagnosis. Thad Cochran of Mississippi however is likely to be available.

Secondly Bob Corker of Tennessee, who initially voted against the Bill but has since signaled support, is being subjected to a fire storm of criticism over the #CorkerKickback.

“CorkerKickback?”: Sen. Supports Tax Bill After Last-Minute Provision Would Personally Enrich Him

Sen. Bob Corker Could Save $1.1 Million Per Year From GOP Tax Scam ‘Kickback’
by Jake Johnson, Common Dreams
Monday, December 18, 2017

The firestorm of outrage sparked by a provision in the GOP tax bill that would personally enrich Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and President Donald Trump continued to grow on Monday as a leading economist estimated that, if passed, the measure could shave over $1.1 million from Corker’s taxes each year.

First unveiled by the International Business Times on Saturday, the provision— buried in the 500-page Republican tax plan— “would allow income from real estate investment trusts to be taxed at a 20 percent rate, as opposed to the 37 percent tax rate paid by high income individuals,” notes Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “According to Corker’s disclosure forms, he makes between $1.2 million and $7.0 million annually in this sort of income….If we plug in the top end $7 million figure, Corker could be saving as much as $1,190,000 from this late addition to the tax bill.”

These savings serve as a marked contrast to the benefits that would be seen by low-income families as a result of the highly-touted child tax credit changes demanded by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in exchange for his vote, Baker goes on to observe. While Corker, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, could potentially see a million-dollar annual benefit from the GOP tax plan, a married couple with two children earning $30,000 a year would only get an extra $800 from Rubio’s tax credit efforts.

Following reports that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is expected to miss the Senate’s vote on the final version of the GOP tax plan, which could come as early as Tuesday, the widespread fury prompted by what has been termed the “Corker Kickback” gained even more significance. With McCain likely out of the mix, the Senate can only afford to lose one vote if the $1.5 trillion tax bill is to reach Trump’s desk.

The outrage prompted by the real estate provision, which was not in previous versions of the tax bill, has not gone unnoticed by Corker. In response to the International Business Times’ reporting on Saturday, Corker conceded that he has not read the tax bill in full—just a “a two-page summary”—and claimed that he was unaware of the addition that has drawn so much condemnation.

Late Sunday, Corker— the lone Republican to vote against the Senate version of the tax bill— sent a letter to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, highlighting “concerns” that the provision has raised and requesting “an explanation of the evolution of this provision and how it made it into the final conference report.”

David Sirota— who, along with his colleague Josh Keefe, broke the initial stories on the provision, which critics have said “reeks of bribery“— called Corker’s demand “big news” and “a truly rare moment in American politics.”

“The senator at the center of the #CorkerKickback scandal is facing a national firestorm and is now publicly demanding answers from his own party— and he’s doing it hours before he could sink the entire tax bill,” Sirota noted on Twitter.

With nationwide protests against the GOP tax plan already expected on Monday, reporting on the “Corker Kickback” appeared to further intensify opposition to the already deeply unpopular legislation.

I contest Jake Johnson’s Whip count. McCain’s absence means the vote is 51 – 48. Mike Pence gets a vote in case of a tie. If Corker actively votes against the Bill (he could also abstain) that brings the margin to 50 – 49. Then if another Republican actively votes against it, yes, the Bill would fail 49 – 50.

If there were 2 abstentions instead, the count would be 49 – 48 and the Bill would pass. If there were another abstention (a total of 3) it would be tied 48 – 48 and Mike Pence would get to cast his deciding vote. If dissenting Republicans choose to abstain instead of oppose the Bill it would take a “wave” of four of them to defeat it.

I think abstentions instead of “No” votes are much more likely- Plausible Deniability, the Bill still passes.

And if Corker’s vote is unsure (he has signaled he’s prepared to vote in favor) finding another Senator is even more problematic.

Sure, Jeff Flake. Meh. He voted in favor of the Senate Bill. More likely is Susan Collins (who also voted in favor of the Senate Bill) but not much. As I pointed out Friday she’s under considerable political pressure in Maine. The 3 “must pass” Bills she is selling her vote for are a) not going to be considered before the Cut Cut Cut Bill vote even though she was explicitly promised they would be (‘I have it in writing from Mitch himself!’ she says) and b) don’t have the remotest chance of passing the House or avoiding a Trump veto.

In short she’s been bought for a pig in a poke and a handful of Magic Beans. She’s not even as dignified as a sex worker.

Still, there is a chance to defeat this abomination, it’s not a sure thing.

I love this plan. I’m excited to be a part of it. Let’s do it.