Politics

Victorious McConnell Praises GOP Team Effort on Taxes

The leader says he does not expect a tough conference

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves the Mansfield room after the Senate Republicans' lunch with President Donald Trump on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated at 2:28 a.m. | This time, just about everything went according to plan for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Kentucky Republican, who months ago came up just short of passing a bill through his chamber to roll back the 2010 health care law, got 51 Republicans behind the sweeping tax overhaul that passed in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

[GOP Talk Package Enters Final Stage With Senate Passage]

McConnell said in an interview with Roll Call that both the process used within the Republican Conference and the general interest among his membership in overhauling the tax code led to the near total unity that prevailed.

“I think the country is ready to start an economic boom again which produces more job and opportunity,” McConnell said Friday night. “In terms of how this was handled, we tried to involve everybody in the conference along the way.”

Watch: McConnell Says Tax Bill a ‘Once in a Generation Opportunity’

McConnell pointed to Republican senators meeting in small groups for months, and he praised the leadership of Finance Committee members Rob Portman of Ohio, Tim Scott of South Carolina, John Thune of South Dakota and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania for helping lead the efforts along with Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, and Texas Republican John Cornyn, the majority whip.

He said one of the keys was to avoid late surprises in navigating what he’s called the legislative “Rubik’s cube” of coalition building.

Later, McConnell held a news conference victory lap just after the Senate passed the bill on Saturday: “We have an opportunity now to make America more competitive, to keep jobs from being shipped offshore, and provide substantial relief to the middle class,” he said on Saturday.

McConnell dismissed complaints from Democrats that final bill text was not released until Friday night, saying there were plenty of hearings and other meetings at the Finance Committee and elsewhere during the legislative process.

 

“You complain about process when you're losing, and that's what you heard on the floor tonight,” McConnell said.

 

As of Thursday, it seemed the bill could stumble over trying to find almost $400 billion in additional savings in later years (perhaps through tax hikes) to meet the demands of deficit-conscious Republicans.

But it turned out the concerns of Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker could largely be bypassed, as the Tennessee senator was a gang of one in opposition on the GOP side.

“At the end of the day, I am not able to cast aside my fiscal concerns and vote for legislation that I believe, based on the information I currently have, could deepen the debt burden on future generations,” Corker said in a statement announcing his position on Friday.

The Joint Committee on Taxation had reported that the legislation as drafted Thursday would increase the deficit by roughly $1 trillion over the next decade, even using a dynamic scoring model accounting for economic growth.

Watch: Schumer Says GOP ‘Abandoning’ Its Principles With Tax Bill

Asked about Corker’s decision to vote against the legislation, McConnell insisted that his conference’s assumptions that the bill would generate enough additional economic growth to not create a deficit hole of $1 trillion or more.

“We’re very optimistic that this budget is indeed revenue neutral,” McConnell said in the Roll Call interview on Friday.

McConnell said he himself would not be “enthusiastic” about the bill if he did not view it as at least budget neutral over the long term.

“I think the test will be whether it does what we’ve predicted,” McConnell said.

Looking ahead to the negotiations between now and Christmas, McConnell said he thought a conference, if it happens, with the House will go relatively smoothly.

The Kentucky Republican was in part making a pitch to the House about how much the Senate GOP has already done to move in the direction of the Republicans in the other chamber.

“We’ve moved our initial thinking on this in the direction of the House bill, for example the property tax deduction, in order to get the bills closer together than they were,” McConnell said.

“And of course we did something that we think is a huge plus,” he said. “We repeal the individual mandate.”

“We think those are the kinds of things that are going to appeal to the House side,” McConnell said. “I’m not saying the conference will be a piece of cake, but I don’t think there’s much chance we won’t be able to reconcile our differences and move forward.”

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