Nine years ago, Senator John McCain was the Republican nominee for president. Today, he’s arguably the biggest roadblock to the Republican agenda. He sank Obamacare repeal and replacement plans. Now, there’s speculation he’ll be the one who sinks the GOP’s tax cut plan as well.
There are no indications from the Senator’s office about how he’ll vote on the important tax cut bill other than stating he’s waiting to read the final version. This is a stalling technique on Capitol Hill; lawmakers rarely make their minds up based upon the final version of the bill unless there’s a particular point they’re fighting to have added or removed. McCain has not expressed reservations about anything specific.
What we do know about McCain is that he cares about two things that tax cuts might affect: deficits and the military. Early analysis of the Senate plan indicates it could add around $1.5 trillion to the national debt through budget deficits that result from the tax cuts. This would have the secondary effect of forcing cuts and military spending would likely be on the table.
Still, the Senator may not even need to be the one who stops the bill. Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin has already declared that he won’t support the bill, which means the GOP can only afford one more no vote from their camp. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, two of the most liberal Republicans in the Senate, have indicated a willingness to consider the bill, moves that most likely indicate support. That leaves Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, two Senators who, like McCain, are on their way out of the Senate and have a grudge against President Trump. If both of them fail to support the bill, that will leave McCain to stay silent or even pretend to support the bill if he is indeed against it. The lame duck Senators could derail every major effort the GOP makes in a round-robin format if they choose, just to keep the President’s agenda failing.
For now, the focus is still on McCain. Will he be the saboteur? Will the GOP come together to get something done before the end of the year? Will President Trump finally get a bill to sign? We should find out in less than a month.
In 2001, as Republicans forged ahead with a $1.35 trillion tax cut, Mr. McCain became one of two Republican senators to vote against the bill’s passage. He said he could not accept that changes to the bill lowered the top individual tax rate to 35 percent and delayed tax relief for married couples.
“We had an opportunity to provide much more tax relief to millions of hard-working Americans,” Mr. McCain said in a speech on the Senate floor. “But I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle-class Americans who most need tax relief.”
Two years later, Mr. McCain voted against another round of tax cuts. In his remarks in 2003, Mr. McCain again cast doubt on the need to use “billions of federal dollars to cut taxes for our nation’s wealthiest.” The deal breaker that time was that his fellow lawmakers would pass such cuts while rejecting legislation that would have allowed members of the military to get tax breaks on profits from selling their homes.
“Politics ruled the day,” he said ruefully.