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Sen. Bob Corker: Criticism of Trump will 'absolutely not' affect my tax-reform vote

  • Sen. Bob Corker says he is "all in" on tax reform despite sharp criticism of President Donald Trump's competence.
  • Corker says he still does not want the GOP tax plan to add to the budget deficit.

Sen. Bob Corker told CNBC on Thursday his sharp criticism of President Donald Trump's fitness for office will "absolutely not" influence his vote on tax reform.

The Tennessee Republican described himself as "all in" on the GOP effort to overhaul the tax system, regardless of his feelings on the president's competence.

"This tax reform is our agenda, it's the Republican Senate agenda," Corker said in a "Squawk Box" interview. "It would be like somebody in your listening audience representing their company, sitting across the table from someone they may have a low regard for, but are they going do something that's going to damage their company because of that? Absolutely not."

The spat between Corker and Trump erupted anew on Tuesday, when Trump unleashed a blistering string of tweets following the senator's assertion that the White House should "step aside" and let Congress handle writing the tax bill. Later responding to Trump, Corker said the claims in the president's tweets were untrue. He said Trump "debases our country" and will not "rise to the occasion as president."

Corker's sharp comments about the president, plus his reservations about deficits generated by tax cuts, led to speculation that he might vote against a bill. The GOP can only afford to lose the votes of two its members in the Senate.

Corker said he still does not want the bill to add a penny to the deficit. He added that a proposal will not balloon the deficit "if we do it right."

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
Tom Williams | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

"Look, I'm all in in closing $4 trillion of loopholes. And I'm all in for locking arms and having the intestinal fortitude to do it. ... If we do it right, and we do the corporate things we're talking about, I'll believe we'll get the dynamic score that is necessary to close that trillion dollars that I was talking about on the front end," Corker said.

"I believe we'll get it. It's got to be proven, we've got to have appropriate scoring," he added.

Corker highlighted his role in striking a budget resolution deal in the Senate that the House hopes to approve on Thursday. That measure allows for tax cuts to add up to $1.5 trillion to the budget deficit over a decade.

The GOP hopes that broad tax cuts for individuals and businesses will unleash economic growth. Using so-called dynamic scoring, which takes into account the revenues added by projected economic growth, Republicans hope their bill will not add to the deficit.

The House's passage of a budget resolution is crucial because it unlocks the budget reconciliation process. Those rules allow a bill to pass with a simple majority of only GOP senators. The party holds 52 of 100 seats.

Once it approves the budget, the House hopes to introduce a bill next week. However, some lawmakers have fought back over whether to scrap provisions like state and local tax deductions or change the 401(k) retirement savings break.

Making those revisions could raise more money to offset the cuts. But they may also cause the GOP to lose votes.

Corker said Republicans will need to "eat the spinach" and "fight off the special interests" to craft a plan that sparks growth.

He added: "Some of the things we're doing, I'm sorry, are ridiculous."