U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said Friday that she supports the Senate Republican tax overhaul bill expected to come to a vote later in the day, saying that it will spur “good jobs and greater economic growth” despite less rosy nonpartisan estimates about its impact.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, told The Associated Press on Friday that leaders had enough votes to pass the plan, which would be a major policy victory for Republicans since their congressional majorities were buoyed by the election of President Donald Trump last year.
Collins had been holding out on the bill while backing a slate of amendments. She said Friday that leaders have agreed to include three — allowing taxpayers to deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes, reducing a medical expense deduction threshold and allowing public and nonprofit employees to keep making catch-up contributions to retirement accounts.
“As revised, this bill will provide much-needed tax relief and simplification for lower- and middle-income families, while spurring the creation of good jobs and greater economic growth,” Collins said in a statement late Friday afternoon.
However, the Joint Committee on Taxation expects the plan to increase the U.S deficit by $1 trillion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office and JCT said it would cut taxes overall, but families making less than $50,000 would pay $24.7 billion more by 2021. Families above $1 million would pay $28.7 billion less over that period.
That has dinged the argument from Collins and other Republicans that economic growth will offset the lost revenue. The Maine senator has said she didn’t want to back a bill that would “blow a hole” in the deficit, but she brushed aside the JCT’s finding on Thursday, saying its growth projection was too low.
Her main concerns about the tax package have revolved around its repeal of the Affordable Care Act mandate that Americans have health coverage or face a penalty. She secured promises from Trump and McConnell to pass two bills aimed at stabilizing the health care law.
One of those would restart health care subsidies that the Trump administration has halted and the other would provide $4.5 billion over two years to help cover expensive patients. However, there are pitfalls.
The CBO has said the mandate’s repeal would lead to 13 million more uninsured Americans by 2027 and raise premiums and that the subsidies Collins advocated for won’t change those outcomes. House conservatives have also balked at the idea of reviving subsidies. The Senate vote is an early step in the process because it has to be reconciled with a House plan passed last month.
U.S. Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, opposes the bill, which he called “a travesty” in a Facebook video on Friday, saying it’s the product of a “closed-door process” and “we’re going to have to live with the results.”
Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett said Collins “let down the people of Maine” in a statement. Maine Republican Party Executive Director Jason Savage applauded her for “helping move this challenging process along” despite “unfair and misleading attacks.”
The House bill was supported by U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District, who applauded the Collins-backed changes to the Senate proposal in a Friday statement. U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from the 1st District, opposed the House bill.