Senate Republicans are in such a rush to pass a tax overhaul in the next few days that they voted to start debate on a bill that could still undergo a bevy of last-minute changes they haven't seen in writing — changes that could dramatically affect the U.S. economy over the next decade.
But most Republicans aren't letting some last-minute deal cutting that could mean billions of dollars in tax increases, tax cuts, or federal spending cuts get in the way of moving the bill along.
Even Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who's one of the senators most skeptical of the bill and is pushing for the major addition of automatic tax hikes if the federal deficit grows too quickly, voted to start debate on the bill. He had told reporters earlier that he couldn't describe the changes "until we get it in writing." Corker later told reporters they could "throw away" anything they'd heard about the deal because it is "still evolving."
All that happened on Wednesday. Senate Republicans could pass the bill by the end of the week.
The backbone of the Senate bill isn't changing yet: The corporate tax rate would be slashed from 35 percent to 20 percent, and the individual tax code would be overhauled in a way that sends most of the benefits to the wealthiest Americans. Obamacare's individual mandate would be repealed, leading to an estimated 13 million fewer Americans having health insurance.
But these last-minute changes might be necessary to bring 50 of the 52 Senate Republicans behind the bill. They would also have far-reaching consequences for years and could determine which Americans reap hundreds of billions of dollars in benefits. Just one alteration under discussion, expanding the tax cuts for "pass-through" firms, would cost $50 billion by some early estimates.
Now is not the time for such details, though, if you ask the senators themselves. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) likely spoke for many of his colleagues as he answered reporters' questions in a Capitol hallway.
"I'm not gonna draw lines. I'm not gonna let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I'm not gonna answer hypotheticals," he said.
Just the day before, he had indicated he'd never vote for Corker's "trigger" provision, joking he'd have to be drunk.
"I may have to get drunk to vote for the bill," Kennedy said. "But I'm not gonna let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and I'm not gonna draw lines in the dirt."