MESA, Ariz. — Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake on Friday heaped praise on a massive Republican tax overhaul proposal working its way through Congress, but still wants tweaks before he agrees to vote for the bill.
The Republican told aerospace company workers during a town hall session in Mesa, Arizona, that corporate tax cuts are needed to restore America’s competitiveness by lowering rates to those at or near those of other nations.
“We’ve got to be competitive globally,” Flake said in an interview. “If we aren’t, if we don’t lower our corporate tax rate, we will see anemic growth like we’ve seen over the past several years.”
But Flake says he is not yet a yes vote because “gimmicks” that keep the plan within Senate rules on deficit impacts need to be fixed. The bills as written would add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over 10 years, although Flake contends that added growth from the stimulus the cuts provide could easily erase that.
Most concerning to Flake is the phasing out of individual tax cuts and business expensing portions after five years under the proposal. If that doesn’t happen, deficits could soar.
“If you phase it out after five years then that’s fine in terms of the bill, but my experience has been once you have things like that, big gimmicks, you rarely phase them out,” he said. “You end up extending them, and I think we ought to be honest about it at least.”
The House version of the plan passed Thursday, the same day the Senate Finance Committee advances its chamber’s version of the bill. Flake said he expects the Senate proposal to reach the floor after Thanksgiving.
The two proposals then will have to be reconciled, and Flake said a razor-thin Senate Republican majority means time is of the essence.
The GOP holds just a 52-48 advantage and can lose just two votes. Already, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has come out opposed, saying the proposal doesn’t cut taxes enough for millions of partnerships and corporations. Including Flake, five other Republican senators have yet to declare support and the bill’s fate is far from certain the Senate.
Flake said accusations that Republican U.S. Senate Roy Moore pursued teenage girls could lead to a Democrat winning that seat in a December special election and put added pressure on Congress to pass tax reform by mid-December. Flake said he’d vote for a Democrat rather than Moore if he lived in Alabama.
The bill also suffered a hit Thursday when a new review from nonpartisan congressional analysts showed it would eventually produce higher taxes for low- and middle-income earners but deliver deep reductions for those better off.
Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union who spoke with Flake, discounted the new analysis, saying much of it stemmed from a repeal of a mandate for individuals to buy health insurance.
Democrats are unified in opposition, citing the slim or non-existent cuts for middle- and low-income Americans, cuts to numerous deductions that help the middle class and automatic cut to Medicare the bills could trigger, among other complaints.