The Senate tax bill went through a familiar cycle on Tuesday. In the morning, Republican lawmakers raised doubts about it that seemed irreconcilable. In the afternoon, they voted for it.
The Senate Budget Committee voted 12-11 along party lines to move the bill forward, allowing it to hit the Senate floor later this week, with the support of two Republicans who had criticized it hours before: Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
It’s a cycle that, so far, has kept hope alive on a bill that has raised concerns among both deficit hawks and those who wish it cut taxes further, while attracting no Democratic support so far, all while facing broad skepticism among the public. (Just 25% of respondents approved of the plan in one recent poll.)
The most contentious issue within the Republican conference is the bill’s impact on the debt and deficit. Those who support it have repeatedly said that its sweeping tax cuts — many of which disproportionately benefit the wealthy — won’t hike the national deficit by more than $1.4 trillion over the next decade, but a number of deficit hawks are skeptical.
At least four Republican Senators — Corker, and also Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona, James Lankford of Oklahoma, and Todd Young of Indiana — have expressed concerns that the bill will cost much more, and when it does, that Congress won’t act to rectify the situation.
The solution that some of them are calling for is simple: a so-called “trigger mechanism” that will reign in tax cuts if economic growth under the tax reform bill doesn’t meet forecasts.
“We’ve got to be able to make it where a backstop is set up and people aren’t afraid of it,” Lankford told reporters late Tuesday afternoon. “And you hope it’s never used! It’s only designed for if we’re not hitting revenue totals and we’re…