Maybe Trump’s crowing about the tax bill is premature. He staged a truly disgusting display at the White House, promising the legislation as “a Christmas present for the American people,” but a Christmas tree bill for lobbyists is more like it.
However the true Christmas present is that the bill seems to be in trouble again. Here are the elements:
Little Marco: Senator Rubio, repeatedly ridiculed by Trump during the campaign, has decided that his price for supporting the bill is a more generous child tax credit, and he has reminded his GOP colleagues that they’ve found gazillions for corporations, so how about something for working families? Rubio has a surprise ally in Utah Senator Mike Lee. A bigger child tax credit requires going back to the drawing board on the whole, delicately balanced bill, to make the numbers work without further increasing the deficit and losing deficit hawks.
Susan Collins: A true faux-moderate, Collins of Maine seems to be backing the leadership bill, but opposed the cut in the top rates. And in conversations with constituents she has left a little wiggle room to perhaps vote against final passage.
Two ailing Republicans: Arizona’s war-hero senator, John McCain, whose surprise vote killed the ACA repeal, is back in Walter Reed Hospital for an indefinite period. His staff won’t say when he is likely to be well enough to return to the Senate for a vote. Thad Cochran of Mississippi is also ill. McCain, like Rubio, was treated disgracefully by Trump.
Senator-elect Doug Jones (Democrat, Alabama!): There is some fencing over when Jones will be seated. First, the election results need to be certified. But if the voting slips beyond the Christmas break, the Republicans will likely have one less member of their caucus, making it just 51-49.
So here’s the state of play: In a Senate divided 52-48, the Republicans have already lost the vote of Bob Corker of Tennessee. If they lose one more, it’s 50-50, and Vice President Pence breaks the tie. If they lose two more, the bill goes down.
Those two could be any combination of Rubio, Lee, Collins—or McCain being too ill to vote, or Jones being seated, or Jeff Flake of Arizona, another object of Trump's crude ridicule, deciding to deny the increasingly unhinged Trump a big win.
It ain’t over till it’s over, folks.