Every vote counted for GOP leaders trying to push through a massive tax overhaul — who could only afford to lose two Republican votes in the Senate and still pass the bill.
So the bill passed in the wee hours of Saturday morning contained a series of sweeteners to help win over fence-sitting pols, from allowing a deduction for property taxes to allowing oil drilling in an Alaskan wildlife refuge.
Sen. Susan Collins, a frequent Republican swing vote from Maine, on Sunday detailed several promises she secured before voting for the bill.
The bill was changed to allow taxpayers to deduct up to $ 10,000 in property taxes from their federal taxes — instead of scrapping the deduction for state and local taxes altogether as the original version would have done. Low-income taxpayers would also be able to deduct some medical expenses.
Collins said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that she got a pledge that the Senate would pass the Alexander-Murray healthcare bill, which would fund health insurance subsidies under Obamacare, and a bill she authored that aims to lower health insurance premiums by offering federal compensation to insurers for their most expensive patients.
“I also got an ironclad commitment that we’re not going to see cuts in the Medicaid/Medicare program as a result of this bill,” Collins said.
The Maine moderate said she won’t guarantee she’ll vote for the final tax bill after it comes out of a conference committee with the House.
“Obviously I want to see what comes out,” she said. “I believe that the amendments that I added on medical expense deductions, on property tax deductions, on helping retirement security for public employees improved the bill.”
A more generous tax treatment for certain businesses known as pass-through entities won the votes of Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Steve Daines of Montana, CNN reported.
Owners of such businesses were allowed to deduct 23% of their business income, up from 17.4% in the original proposal.
Sen. Jeff Flake, who had been reluctant to vote for a bill that would increase the deficit, came on board after a commitment to put a time limit on companies being able to write off the full value of new capital investments, according to CNBC.
Flake was also promised the Trump administration would work with him on a deal to shield young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, who are set to lose their protections after Trump ordered an end to the deferred action for childhood arrivals program.
The bill would allow oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a big win for that state’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski, another frequent swing vote.
In another last minute change, an amendment by Sen. Ted Cruz narrowly passed with a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Pence. It would allow families to use special tax-free college savings accounts, known as 529s, to pay private school tuition for K-12 education, according to the Washington Post. Previously, the accounts could only be used for higher education.
In the end, Republicans lost only one vote — that of Sen. Bob Corker, who had objected that the bill would drive up the deficit by an estimated $ 1 trillion. He wanted a trigger that would cause automatic tax increases if backers’ predictions of economic growth to cancel out any revenue loss did not materialize, according to Politico. But GOP leaders ultimately abandoned the attempt to cut a deal with him, realizing they could lose his vote and still pass the bill.