Politics

Senate Officially Begins Debate on Tax Overhaul Bill

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., jokes around with reporters on Wednesday afternoon, hours before the chamber voted to begin debating the tax overhaul bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate voted Wednesday to officially begin debating the GOP tax overhaul bill, moving one step closer to a drastic rewrite of the nation’s tax code.

The Senate adopted the motion to proceed to the House-passed tax overhaul bill, 52-48.

The procedural vote had been delayed as senators worked through language that would open a part of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

The chamber will now debate the measure for 20 hours before proceeding to a marathon “vote-a-rama” session, where nearly unlimited amendments can be offered by either party.

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The process is allowed under the fast-track budget procedure known as reconciliation that the GOP is using to try to advance a bill with simple majority support.

GOP leaders are likely to unveil a manager’s amendment that would incorporate changes sought by a number of Republican holdouts to the Senate Budget Committee-reported version, approved by that panel Tuesday.

Backroom dealmaking is expected to continue over the next few days as GOP leaders look to shore up the 50 votes needed to pass the legislation, assuming Vice President Mike Pence casts the tie-breaking vote.

And Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and James Lankford of Oklahoma are pushing for the inclusion of a so-called trigger option that would make adjustments to the bill if certain economic benchmarks aren’t met over the next 10 years.

Conservatives and anti-tax groups have chafed at the concept of having a trigger. One option being discussed is cutting spending automatically, rather than reinstating tax rates that had been cut. 

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