Updated on November 29 at 6:13 p.m. ET
The fate of the Republican tax overhaul is coming down to a confrontation between the Senate’s few remaining deficit hawks and the GOP’s most ardent tax-slashers.
It’s a fight that has been building for months and now centers on a proposal from Senators Bob Corker of Tennessee and James Lankford of Oklahoma for the Republican tax bill to include a provision triggering tax increases if the cuts in the rate for corporations don’t produce promised economic growth. Corker, who has vowed not to support a bill that he viewed as adding to the deficit, provided a decisive vote to advance the $1.4 trillion tax cut out of the Budget Committee on Tuesday only after securing what he said was a “verbal agreement” from GOP leaders that the final legislation would include a fiscal trigger. On Wednesday, all 52 Senate Republicans voted to begin floor debate on the tax bill, which the party hopes to pass by the end of the week. But important changes, including the expected addition of a trigger provision, are still to come, and the GOP’s show of unity in Wednesday’s procedural vote does not necessarily mean final passage will go as smoothly.
With the bill gaining steam, conservative lawmakers and outside activists are now mobilizing in opposition to a fiscal trigger. They warn it’ll prove counterproductive to the GOP’s goal of unleashing business investment and could saddle the nation with an automatic tax hike if the economy takes an unexpected dip. “It’s a bad idea,” said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group funded by the Koch brothers. “The last thing you’d want to do if there were some kind of economic downturn would be to raise taxes. It also leads to uncertainty for businesses, because you don’t know what your tax rates are going to be from year to year.” In an interview, Andy Roth of the conservative Club for Growth called the proposal “a dumb idea,” and Grover Norquist, the veteran anti-tax activist, slammed it as “a self-fulfilling threat to kill jobs.”