- The Senate voted to begin debate on the massive GOP tax bill on Wednesday.
- Twenty hours of debate will follow, with a final vote expected Friday.
- The prospects for the bill have been dramatically improving over the past few days.
The Senate on Wednesday voted to begin the final process of debate on the massive Republican attempt to overhaul the federal tax code.
The procedural step, called a motion to proceed, passed the Senate on a 52-48 party-line vote.
The Senate will now begin 20 hours of debate on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act before what’s called a vote-a-rama. The vote-a-rama, in which senators can introduce as many amendments to the bill as they want, is expected Thursday night.
After the amendment process, which Democrats will attempt to use to slow down the bill, there will be a final vote. The current timeline sets up a final vote on Friday.
The bill is being moved through the Senate at breakneck speed. It is still missing final details, a full score of the bill from the Joint Committee on Taxation, and a full report from the Senate parliamentarian.
The speed has helped to improve the prospects of the bill, as a slew of changes at which Republican senators have hinted appear to be winning over some sceptical members.
Changes to the treatment of so-called pass-through entities and changes to the state and local tax deduction are being discussed to win over GOP sceptics.
One of the biggest changes being considered, designed to win over a handful of senators concerned about the federal deficit, would be a “trigger” that would kick in if the bill does not deliver on expected economic growth. Details of the trigger mechanism, wherein some of the legislation’s tax cuts would most likely be reversed, are still being worked out.
Another possibility leaders are discussing is paying for some of the changes by cutting the corporate tax rate to 21% or 22% instead of the 20% in the legislation passed by the Senate Finance Committee. This would probably draw the ire of President Donald Trump, who has made the 20% rate his red line in the tax fight.
Republican leaders’ efforts appear to be working.
A possible holdout, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, on Wednesday announced that she would vote for the bill.
“After thoroughly reviewing the good work of the Finance Committee, I intend to support the reconciliation legislation that is now before the Senate,” Murkowski said in a statement.
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