Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Senators Spar over Tax Deal Toomey, Sanders Fight over Package of Cuts

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Senators Spar over Tax Deal Toomey, Sanders Fight over Package of Cuts

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON - Senate Republicans weighed scaling back the tax cuts in their massive package to secure crucial support as congressional analysts said Thursday the legislation would add $1 trillion to the nation's debt over the next decade.

The late-night shifts followed a Democratic attempt to return the controversial tax package to committee and some unexpected drama on the Senate floor.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., appeared to be mollifier in chief as members of his caucus huddled around GOP holdout Bob Corker of Tennessee.

Mr. Corker along with Republican deficit hawks Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin were - briefly, it turned out - withholding their crucial votes to defeat Democrats' motion to recommit, which could have jeopardized passage this year.

The scramble to alter the bill came after senators said the chamber's parliamentarian had ruled that automatic "triggers" designed to guard against big deficits would violate Senate rules.

Mr. Toomey appeared increasingly frustrated and at one point clutched his glasses and stood face-to-face with Mr. Corker, who later relented and voted with his caucus.

Mr. Corker's earlier objections stemmed from concerns that the bill didn't sufficiently offset newly project deficit increases.

Between private conversations with Mr. Corker and others on the floor, Mr. Toomey took to the podium to make his case publicly for the tax plan he helped craft and is now shepherding through a floor vote. Most of his arguments came during a back-and-forth with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont.

Mr. Toomey argued that the proposal to eliminate state and local tax deductions relieves taxpayers in states like Pennsylvania from "subsidizing" the federal taxes of wealthy people in expensive states like New York who have more to deduct.

He argued that most people who take the standard deduction will pay less. And he argued that the proposal alleviates the burden of a tax penalty for low-income people who can't afford the coverage now required under the Affordable Care Act. …

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