House and Senate Republicans say they have reached a consensus on their tax bill and plan to hold a vote next week. Now that Democrat Doug Jones has won a Senate seat in Alabama, Republicans’ majority in the Senate has narrowed from 52-48 to 51-49. But will Doug Jones’ victory make it possible for the tax bill to be stopped?
Firstly, Republicans are eager to claim a legislative win before the end of the year, and nearly everyone in the GOP is counting on the tax bill to fill that role. Democrats argue that the people of Alabama deserve to have their newly elected senator at the table during the tax debate, but Republicans have given no indication that they will slow down the vote.
Also, for procedural reasons, Doug Jones is not likely to be seated on the Senate until after the New Year. The election results must be certified, with all Alabama counties required to officially file their election results by Friday, December 22, according to the Alabama Secretary of State’s office. Chief of staff for the Alabama secretary of state, John Bennett, has stated that some counties might miss the December 22 deadline, which would mean December 26 would be the earliest for the final results to be certified.
The latest the results could be certified is January 3.
After that, it’s up to Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to set a date for the official seating, and Congress will likely be on recess through the New Year.
So is there any hope for the bill to be thwarted? It will depend on Republicans. If there is enough disagreement among members of the GOP to delay the bill until after the holiday recess, then it’s possible Doug Jones could be seated prior to the vote. If Jones was seated and either Sen. Bob Corker, who voted against the bill last time, or Susan Collins, who has been wavering in recent days, decided not to vote for the bill, then a defeat could happen. These odds are long, however, especially with a GOP so keen on victory.
Negotiations between the House and Senate have not resulted in significant changes to the fundamentals of the legislation. The bill still includes generous tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans. The corporate tax rate will fall from the current 35 percent to percent. And the individual income tax rate for those in the highest bracket will drop to 37 percent, down from the current rate of 39.6 percent.
Barring an act of God, it appears that Republicans will pass the tax bill in the next week. But, many had the same pessimistic view of Doug Jones’ chances for victory in Alabama.
So there is still a sliver of hope.