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Thanksgiving Ads Served as Prelude to Senate Tax Debate

Outside spending pushed Republicans in all directions

Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson looks on during the markup of the tax bill in the Senate Finance Committee on Nov. 16. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson looks on during the markup of the tax bill in the Senate Finance Committee on Nov. 16. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

If all goes according to plan for Senate Republicans, they will pass a sweeping tax overhaul through the chamber before leaving for the weekend.

But as they and President Donald Trump learned during the Senate’s health care reconciliation exercise, getting to 50 votes can be difficult.

The Finance Committee released bill text during the recess week, meaning the next step is for the Budget Committee to marry the tax legislation with a separate piece from the Energy and Natural Resources Committee that would open part of the Alaskan Arctic to energy exploration.

The combined legislation would then head to the Senate floor, with the potential for members of both parties to offer unlimited amendments during a vote-a-rama.

Of course, during the health care debate, the vote-a-rama never really happened because Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John McCain of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska short-circuited that process by voting against a key manager’s amendment.

McCain, thus far, has been happier with the process used for the tax code overhaul, including the full markup at the Finance panel.

“I am pleased that the Finance Committee has followed the regular order by holding numerous hearings and spending four days debating the bill and considering amendments in committee,” McCain said in a statement. “I am hopeful that when we return from the Thanksgiving recess to consider tax reform on the Senate floor, we will see this process continue, with both sides of the aisle having sufficient opportunity to debate the merits of tax reform and offer amendments.”

No shortage of political ads for and against the Senate Republican tax plan hit the airwaves and internet over the holiday weekend.

The 45Committee, an outside group backing Trump’s agenda, announced just before Thanksgiving it would be spending on television across Kentucky, trying to build up pressure on GOP Sen. Rand Paul to back the Senate bill.

“Keep your word, Sen. Paul. Vote yes on tax cuts,” says the ad, which also features a clip from a television interview with Paul in which the senator said he was “all in” on cutting taxes.

45Committee also announced plans for advertisements across Wisconsin, pushing for the support of Republican Ron Johnson, who had some qualms about the GOP plan’s treatment of small businesses relative to corporations.

On the other end of the spectrum, Priorities USA Action is one of several groups associated with Democrats that are targeting Republican members of the House and Senate through a variety of advertising channels. The organization has $2 million committed to the effort.

“The more voters learn about this bill the less they like it, which is why Priorities is launching an all-out effort to reach voters, educate them on the bill’s consequences and encourage them to contact their representatives and stop this attack on the middle class,” Executive Director Patrick McHugh said in a statement.

On the Senate side, Priorities said it will run ads in Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Nevada and Tennessee. Those states are all home to Republican senators who might have cause to vote against the reconciliation package.

Before the tax bill takes the floor, senators will continue to work through Trump’s judicial nominees, with both a district and a circuit judge lined up for confirmation votes during the first half of the week.

With Tuesday likely to be spent burning time on the nomination of Gregory Katsas to a circuit judgeship in Washington, D.C., it could be as late as Wednesday before the tax debate sees the Senate floor.

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