Amid concerns the Republican-dominated Congress wasted its first year with a cooperative president, Republicans likely face two competing pressures: Wracking up a legislative win — tax reform — and sticking to their fiscally conservative bona fides.
Three Republican senators already indicated they may oppose the party's tax proposals if they cost too much, potentially endangering efforts to get legislation through a chamber in which the party has a narrow majority that struggled to pass several versions of an Obamacare repeal this year.
On Thursday, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) signaled to the White House and Senate leadership he was cautious about passing tax reform enlarging the national debt:
— John Bresnahan (@BresPolitico) November 9, 2017
“I remain concerned over how the current tax reform proposals will grow the already staggering national debt,” Flake said in a statement.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) echoed that sentiment Sunday when he explicitly refused to vote for legislation that raised the debt “too much.”
“I'm actually not comfortable with increasing the debt,” he told NBC's Chuck Todd.
While it's unclear how much would be “too much” for Lankford and other Republicans, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday that House version of tax reform would plunge the nation $1.7 trillion deeper in debt.
During early talks surrounding a reform package, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told his colleagues he wouldn't vote for a bill that adds to the deficit without “reasonable and responsible growth models.”
While appearing on television in October, Corker indicated that lawmakers like the head of the hard-line Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), might abandon tax reform as well.
Editor's Note: This post has been updated.