Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) joined radio host Hugh Hewitt on his program Wednesday morning and expressed determination to see the job through as regards putting the final details on the tax reform bill and getting it to the President’s desk.
Hugh Hewitt: Can you give me a guess, a percentage, that tax bill will hit the President’s desk? What level of certainty is Mitch McConnell at today?
Mitch McConnell: Well, almost certain. I mean, I can’t imagine having come this far we’re not going to finish the job.
Hewitt also asked McConnell (quotes in parentheses) about the unprecedented number of judicial nominations Trump has put forward and the attempt by Democrats to obstruct them (“The principal way we’re changing America is through the court system”); the attack on Mitt Romney from Steve Bannon (“I can tell you what I think of Mitt Romney. I think he’s a great American, and has had an outstanding career, and is a truly remarkable Republican”); and some of the differences between the Senate and House versions of the tax bill (“We have to take into account the different politics, for example, of the two bodies.”)
But the real star of the show was the fact that McConnell believes a final passage of the tax bill is forthcoming and will be signed, and what that means for the future strength of the American economy.
“It’s not just a question of making people happy. It’s a question of getting the country growing again,” McConnell told Hewitt. “I hear that the bill’s not very popular. Well, look, plenty of times when you try to do a big bill, it’s not popular. But is it the right thing to do for the country? And we think this slow growth threatens the future of America. This is a tax bill, coupled with regulatory reform, that will get us growing again. We’ve had two quarters in a row of 3% growth. I don’t want to read too much into that, but consumer confidence is up. We finish this tax bill, I think America can take off again.”
So far, House Republicans are not predicting that repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate included in the Senate version of the bill will threaten talks to reconcile versions between the two chambers.
Some House members who voted against Obamacare repeal in May and for tax reform last month weren’t concerned about voting for a final bill that would repeal the mandate that everyone buy insurance. Twenty Republican lawmakers voted against Obamacare repeal in May, which passed by a 217-213 vote, and 13 voted against tax reform.
“I think the individual mandate question was never the burning issue for me,” said retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who voted against repeal. “People will choose to not be covered, which is a shame, but on the other hand, forcing them has never been a great Republican position. That one has not been my burning issue. Overall, I believe that the tax reform package is improved by the Senate.”
McConnell told Hewitt he is also confident any differences between the two bills would be easily negotiated with his House colleagues, with the caveat that the Senate has fewer potential yes votes.
“There are a number of different kinds of moving parts here. It’s pretty hard to predict exactly what kind of compromises we make,” the Senate Majority Leader said. “But clearly, the conference report’s got to pass both houses, and I would remind our friends in the House, we have a very, very slim margin in the Senate. But look, I think we can work these things out and get this across the finish line before Christmas.”