Republican senator Susan Collins once again asserted on Sunday that she was not certainly voting yes on the Republican tax bill that is expected to pass the House and Senate in the coming weeks.
“I always wait until the final version of the bill is brought before us before I make a final decision on whether or not to support it,” she said on CBS’s Face the Nation.
Republicans are working to bring together the bills passed by the two chambers, which feature some significant differences, and have a final product on President Trump’s desk before Christmas. Speculation that the House might pass the Senate bill as-is faded last week, in part because the Senate’s frenzied, last-minute writing of the bill led to some glaring mistakes that will need to be mended.
Collins was one of the three Republican holdouts who killed the repeal of Obamacare over the summer, but was much more enthusiastic about the prospect of tax cuts — the Republican raison d’être — from the beginning. Her eagerness manifested itself in her haphazard justification for voting yes.
Collins, who said that including the repeal of Obamacare’s invididual mandate as part of the tax bill was a “mistake,” said she agreed to a deal with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell that the Senate would pass two bipartisan pieces of health-care legislation, the Alexander-Murray and Nelson-Collins bills, which would stabilize insurance markets. (They would come nowhere near undoing the damage of repealing the mandate, but never mind.)
The problem is that the House would also need to pass those laws, and Speaker Paul Ryan has shown no signs that he wants to do so, rendering Collins’s vision pretty much useless. (In the weak-negotiator sweepstakes, Collins was outdone only by Jeff Flake, who voted yes in exchange for the promise of a meeting about immigration.)
Face the Nation’s John Dickerson brought up the small problem of the House on Sunday; Collins said, vaguely, that she had talked with colleagues in the House, Senate, and White House, and “I have no reason to believe that that commitment will not be kept.” Unless she knows something the public doesn’t, it’s hard to square that statement with reality. The question is whether Collins cares more about a broken promise or helping to get massive tax cuts over the finish line.
In the Senate vote on December 1, Republicans lost only one of their own — Bob Corker — so even if Collins votes no and Corker holds the line, they could squeeze the bill through, 50-50, with Vice-President Mike Pence acting as a tiebreaker. Still, Republicans would prefer not to make it that close. And if Democrat Doug Jones pulls off an upset in Alabama on Tuesday, the Senate might have to rush to vote on the bill before he’s seated.
All this has provided Democratic activists and lawmakers with a faint glimmer of hope that the regressive, society-altering tax bill nobody seems to like except Republican lawmakers might yet be halted.