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McCain to vote for GOP tax bill

Sen. John McCain was one of several key undecided senators on the bill, which could see a Senate floor vote as soon as tonight. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Arizona senator’s support provides a major lift to the bill’s prospects.

Updated

Sen. John McCain said Thursday that he would back the Senate GOP tax legislation, clearing away another obstacle for Republican leadership as they move to pass a massive tax code overhaul by week’s end.

The Arizona Republican, who helped tank the party’s Obamacare repeal efforts earlier this year, has been a major question mark for weeks on the tax measure. He raised some general concerns about ballooning the deficit — one reason he voted against the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 — but stressed in his statement that he believed the tax measure would ultimately boost the economy and ease deficit issues.

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“I believe this legislation, though far from perfect, would enhance American competitiveness, boost the economy, and provide long overdue tax relief for middle class families,” McCain said in a statement. “This is not a perfect bill, but it is one that would deliver much-needed reform to our tax code, grow the economy, and help Americans keep more of their hard-earned money.”

The legislation, which would slash the corporate tax rate and lower rates for many individuals, would increase the deficit by about $ 1.5 trillion over ten years, and deficit hawks fear the true cost of the plan is much higher.

Democrats have also blasted Republicans for rushing the bill to the floor while considering significant 11th-hour changes, but McCain signaled he was satisfied with the process.

“For months, I have called for a return to regular order, and I am pleased that this important bill was considered through the normal legislative processes, with several hearings and a thorough mark-up in the Senate Finance Committee during which more than 350 amendments were filed and 69 received a vote,” he said.

But even with McCain in the “yes” column, Senate Republicans still have myriad issues to resolve before they can lock down at least 50 votes to ensure final passage of the tax bill on the floor. Republicans are using powerful budget procedures to evade a Democratic filibuster and could pass the bill as early as Thursday night.

Other key votes such as GOP Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine have yet to commit to the bill, for varying reasons. And GOP Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Steve Daines of Montana are trying to secure even more generous treatment of small businesses after extracting a boost in an earlier round of negotiations.

Collins will offer a half-dozen amendments, including one that would hike the proposed corporate tax rate of 20 percent to restore a deduction for up to $ 10,000 for property taxes. She is among a handful of Republican senators who say they are open to raising the proposed corporate rate in order to fund other tax provisions in the bill.

“I have talked with many CEOs who have called to lobby me and they start as saying that they’d really love to have the rate go to 20, and then I say, what about 22 percent? Would that change your decision-making?” Collins said late Wednesday night. “And they say we’d be happy with 22 percent.”

The moderate senator is also seeking to extract some health care assurances because the current tax bill repeals Obamacare’s requirement that everyone carry insurance or pay a penalty.

Mitch McConnell, Kevin Brady, Paul Ryan, David Schweikert and Chuck Grassley are pictured. | AP Photo

At a Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Thursday morning, Colins discussed an arrangement that would add two separate health care bills — one to stabilize the markets and another to protect pre-existing conditions and use high-risk pools — to a short-term spending bill that would need to pass before government funding expires Dec. 8.

“I’m going to know whether or not those provisions made it” before final passage of a tax bill, Collins said. “That matters hugely to me.”

Despite all the holes to fill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell exuded confidence about the bill’s chances.

“We’re going down the home stretch, headed toward the finish line either late tonight or early tomorrow,” he said at a small business-related press conference.

“The [economic] growth rate’s already starting to tick up, as you’ve noticed in these last few quarters, in anticipation of what we’re about to do,” as well as because of the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda, he said.

Elana Schor and Colin Wilhelm contributed to this report.

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