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Republicans push tax bill forward, Trump hails GOP 'love fest'

by Ali Vitali /
Image: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell answers questions from the media
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell answers questions from the media on Nov. 13, 2017 in Kentucky. McConnell said he believes the women accusing candidate Roy Moore of sexual contact with a minor, and calls on Moore to step down from the race.NBC News

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Republicans cleared a hurdle in their drive to overhaul the tax system Tuesday, voting the Senate GOP tax bill out of committee and paving the way for a full chamber vote later this week.

The bill cleared the budget committee in a 12-11 vote along party lines, with two notable "yes" votes from previously skeptical Republicans. Despite having threatened to oppose the bill, GOP senators Bob Corker of Tennessee and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin both voted it out of committee.

As the clerk read the tally, protesters in the room shouted, "Kill the bill! Kill the bill!"

The vote came hours after President Donald Trump had left the Capitol, where he attended a closed-door meeting with Senate Republicans and urged them to support the tax cut plan. Trump characterized the meeting afterward as a "love fest" and praised the "unanimous, from the Republican side at least" votes from Senate budget committee members.

"It was very, very special," Trump told reporters in the Roosevelt Room of his meeting with Republican senators. "The camaraderie. It was somewhat of a love fest. They want to see (tax cuts) happen."

Certainly, this White House wants to see it happen. The Trump administration has yet to notch a major legislative win for their first year in office, and the president has said he hopes for the tax reform bill to be on his desk by Christmas.

That will require cohesion among Republicans — something Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said is a "challenging exercise" — considering Democrats aren't on board. Trump spent his Tuesday attacking top Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer as "weak" on crime and immigration, as well alleging that "nothing to them is important other than raising taxes."

The White House has spent the past few weeks shoring up skeptical Republicans, like Corker and Johnson. For Corker, those discussions have been paying off.

Corker explained his "yes" committee vote in a statement Tuesday in which he said he had reached an agreement in principle "on a trigger mechanism to ensure greater fiscal responsibility should economic growth estimates not be realized." Corker has expressed concern about any steps that would increase the deficit.

If it passes the full Senate, the tax cut plan must still be reconciled with a different plan moving through the House.

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