Maine's US Sen. Collins says she'll back tax reform bill

Markets Associated Press

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said she'll vote for a tax reform overhaul she claims will help Maine businesses and lower taxes for most Maine households.

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The Republican legislation would slash tax rates for big business and lower levies on the richest Americans. The GOP plans to muscle the $1.5 trillion bill through Congress before its year-end break.

Collins said on Monday the overhaul contains proposals she backed concerning state and local taxes, retirement savings and medical expenses. She said the nation can't continue having a high corporate tax rate as businesses invest overseas.

"Does this tax cut make the American people better off?" Collins said. "The answer to that question is yes. The bill puts money back into the pockets of the American taxpayer with tax cuts beginning Jan. 1."

Collins has said her vote depends on Congress ensuring reform doesn't trigger Medicare cuts and passing two bills she favors to stabilize the health insurance market.

Democrats say Collins is being played on a bill that enriches the wealthy and bloats the deficit. Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, of Florida, said he's concerned House Republicans could scuttle the fixes sought by Collins.

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Collins was among a handful of Republicans who helped derail her party's effort this year to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's health care law.

Collins on Monday defended her support of the current tax overhaul, which removes a penalty that was charged to people without health insurance as required by Obama's 2010 health insurance law as a way to hold costs down for everyone. By eliminating this mandate, the tax bill will likely deprive 13 million people of insurance, according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office.

Collins said there is a "big difference between fining people who choose to go without health insurance versus the bills considered last summer and fall that would have taken away insurance coverage from people who have it and want it."

Republicans have a 52-48 majority in the Senate. Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain is battling brain cancer and is expected to miss the vote.