GOP leaders move to appease Rubio, finalize big tax bill

FeaturesAssociated Press

Congressional Republicans finalized their sweeping tax package Friday, expanding its child tax credit to placate a reluctant GOP senator as they pushed to muscle the bill through Congress next week and give President Donald Trump his first major legislative victory.

Continue Reading Below

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has been a potential holdout, though lawmakers have been working to appease him. Rubio wrote on Twitter earlier Friday that he was dissatisfied with the size of a tax credit that low-income families can claim for their children.

“The #workingclass is always forgotten in D.C. We need to add more #taxcuts for #workingclass parents especially those earning 20k- 50K,” Rubio wrote.

At the White House, Trump said he was confident that Congress would pass the legislation. The package would give generous tax cuts to corporations and the wealthiest Americans — Trump among them — and more modest tax cuts to low- and middle-income families.

“We’re putting in a tremendous child tax credit and it is increasing on a daily basis,” Trump said. “I think that we are going to be in a position to pass something as early as next week which will be monumental.”

Members of a House-Senate conference committee were signing the final version of the legislation Friday. They have been working to blend different versions passed by the House and Senate.

Two Republican members of the committee, Reps. Devin Nunes of California and Kristi Noem of South Dakota, said they believed Rubio’s concerns had been met, but Rubio’s office could not confirm it.

The tax package would double the basic per-child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000. The bill makes a smaller amount available to families even if they owe no income tax. Noem said Friday the amount has been increased from $1,100 to $1,400.

Rubio has said he wanted the $1,100 figure increased, but he hasn’t said by how much.

Low-income taxpayers would receive the money in the form of a tax refund, which is why it’s called a “refundable” tax credit.

Rubio’s potential defection had pushed the Republicans’ razor-thin majority in the Senate closer to the edge.

Senate Republicans could still pass the package without Rubio’s vote, but they would be cutting it extremely close. An original version was approved 51-49 — with Rubio’s support.

The Senate turmoil erupted after a key faction of House Republicans came out in favor of the bill, boosting its chances. Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus predicted the vast majority of their members would support the package.

The up-and-down turns came after House and Senate Republican leaders forged an agreement in principle on the most sweeping overhaul of the nation’s tax laws in more than 30 years. Republican leaders predicted swift passage next week, sending the bill to Trump for his signature.

At the White House, Trump said Thursday he was confident that Rubio will get onboard.

“He’s really been a great guy and very supportive. I think that Sen. Rubio will be there,” said Trump, who belittled Rubio during the 2016 GOP presidential primaries, calling him “little Marco.”

During debate on the Senate version of the bill, Rubio proposed a change that would have made the entire $2,000 credit available to families, even if they owed no income tax, but it was soundly defeated. To pay for the expanded credit, he proposed to slightly scale back a steep cut in the corporate income tax rate.

A few days after the earlier Senate vote, Rubio tweeted a link to a news story that said GOP leaders were indeed considering scaling back the corporate tax cut — but not to pay for an expanded child tax credit.

“They freaked out when I proposed small reduction in Corporate tax cut to pay for cut for working families. Now this?” Rubio tweeted.

The final package slashes the corporate rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. The initial Senate and House bills had set it at 20 percent.

Rubio’s opposition had come at a bad time for Senate Republicans, with two of them missing votes this week because of illness.

John McCain of Arizona, who is 81, is at a Washington-area military hospital being treated for the side effects of brain cancer treatment, and 80-year-old Thad Cochran of Mississippi had a non-melanoma lesion removed from his nose earlier this week. GOP leaders are hopeful they will be available next week.