Republican tax Bill faces new uncertainty ahead of expected vote

House and Senate Republicans faced a new round of uncertainty about the fate of their tax Bill with the possible defection of senator Marco Rubio (above) of Florida. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - House and Senate Republicans faced a new round of uncertainty on Thursday (Dec 14) about the fate of their US$1.5 trillion (S$2.02 trillion) tax Bill with the possible defection of a Republican senator, Marco Rubio of Florida, amid continuing questions about how the Bill will be paid for and how much of the benefits will flow to low- and middle-income people versus corporations.

Republicans, who reached agreement Wednesday on a merged version of the House and Senate tax plans, expect to unveil the final Bill Friday and vote on the legislation early next week so that it can be sent to President Donald Trump before Christmas.

But those plans were thrown into some disarray Thursday when Rubio said that he would vote no on the Bill unless it included a more generous version of the child tax credit, which he and another Republican senator, Mike Lee of Utah, have been pushing for to benefit lower-income individuals.

"I think my requests have been pretty reasonable and consistent and direct," Rubio said. A spokesman for Lee said he was undecided on the Bill.

Rubio and Lee have been pressing Republican leaders to expand the child tax credit to make it more generous for low-income families. That change would further drive up the cost of the tax Bill, which can add no more than US$1.5 trillion to federal deficits over a decade if the Bill is to pass without Democratic support.

Republican negotiators responsible for merging the two Bills have made a host of changes to assuage the concerns of businesses and some fellow lawmakers.

"We're literally trying to squeeze about US$2 trillion in tax reform into a US$1.5 trillion box and that's been a problem," Senator Ron Johnson said this week.

But on Thursday, Republicans were running out of time to make changes and showed little patience for acceding to new demands. Representative Kevin Brady, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, cast doubt on further altering the child tax credit.

"We're at 11:59 on the clock and really the pens ought to be down," he said on CNN.

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