GOP Releases Final Version Of Tax Overhaul Bill

Dec 15, 2017
Originally published on December 15, 2017 10:24 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Republicans in Congress say they have finalized their overhaul of the nation's tax code. They plan to release the tax bill this evening and get to work very quickly next week to pass the 1-and-a-half-trillion-dollar package into law. And while the bill is not public yet, it looks like it has almost all of the votes it would need to pass.

Here to tell us more is NPR's Scott Detrow. Scott, good to see you.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: And this afternoon, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, both Republicans, both said that they'll vote for the bill. How significant is that?

DETROW: It's a big deal. Bob Corker was the only Republican in the Senate to vote no last time. He's had major concerns all along over how it would expand the national debt. But in a statement this afternoon, Corker said the bill is far from perfect. He'd rather have a bill that avoided any chance of adding to the deficit. But it's, as he put it, a once-in-a-generation opportunity. That's a political opportunity. Republicans have control of the House, have control the Senate and the White House. And we know that going forward, it's going to be harder for them to pass things once Doug Jones, a Democrat, is sworn in. So Corker doesn't want to stop a chance to overhaul the tax code. And he seems to feel so strongly about this that he picked up the phone and called President Trump to tell him he'd vote yes today. Of course, he's been incredibly critical of Trump over the last few months.

SIEGEL: That's Corker's story. What about Rubio? Yesterday, he said that he would vote no unless some changes were made with the child tax credit. What's the situation there?

DETROW: Rubio seems to have gotten what he wanted on this. He had been pushing really hard for changes up until the last minute. Leaders agreed to increase the refundable portion of the credit from $1,000 per child to $1,400 per child. And that's a big deal for a lot of working families. Making more of the credit refundable means bigger refund checks for parents who have payroll taxes deducted from their paychecks, but they don't make enough money to owe federal income taxes. This is something Rubio has been pushing for since 2015.

SIEGEL: So the tax bill is written. We've learned it was signed by the tax writers on Capitol Hill today. But even as senators like Rubio and Corker are announcing their support for it, very few people have seen what's actually in this final draft.

DETROW: That's right. That will change in the next half hour or so. We expect this bill to be made public then. We do know one thing right now. The final total of this is 503 pages. Other than that, a lot of the line-by-line details remain a mystery. And Democrats have been very vocal about this, saying that they're not going to see this bill until the public sees it. They argue this has been partisan from start to finish, there was never any Republican attempt to reach a broader consensus or win bipartisan support and have broader public input, and that the process is rushed. And it is true. Republicans do want to pass this quickly. We're looking at votes early next week in the House and the Senate so Republicans can meet that self-imposed goal of getting this done by Christmas.

SIEGEL: And while at the moment it doesn't seem necessary, Vice President Pence had postponed his trip to the Middle East just in case it had been 50-50 and he had to cast a vote to break a tie in the Senate.

DETROW: That's right. Even with the support of Corker and Rubio, this is going to be a close vote.

SIEGEL: NPR congressional reporter Scott Detrow. Scott, thanks.

DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.