Dec. 2, 2017
By Seung Min Kim
On a recent phone call to discuss the GOP’s tax push, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested President Donald Trump focus his personal lobbying efforts on one senator in particular: Ron Johnson.
For weeks, the Wisconsin Republican had made it clear he would seek more generous tax treatment of certain small businesses — and that he was willing to use his vote as leverage. But after several phone calls from Trump and one final negotiating session inside Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn’s ornate Capitol office, Johnson said early Friday he would finally support the bill. That announcement made passage seem all but inevitable just one night after the bill nearly collapsed in spectacular fashion on the Senate floor.
McConnell and his leadership team ultimately secured passage of the tax code rewrite in the early hours of Saturday morning after weeks of methodically working each wavering vote, and by trying to learn the lessons of their Obamacare repeal failure.
It worked. By moving the tax bill through the committee process and letting more GOP senators give more input as they drafted the bill, the Kentucky Republican delivered a sorely-needed legislative achievement to his party in a year marked by turbulence on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
“It’s been quite a year for Senate Republicans,” McConnell said in an interview with POLITICO as the chamber prepared to pass the bill. “We’ve changed the Supreme Court for a generation and done the first comprehensive tax reform in 31 years. Big year for us.”
McConnell also pointed to one other reason why the GOP succeeded on taxes but not health care: comprehensive tax reform has been a longstanding goal for Republicans, while there was little consensus on how to replace Obamacare despite their years-long pledge to dismantle it.