By Amanda Becker and Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican negotiators in the U.S. Congress put the finishing touches on a sweeping tax overhaul on Friday and picked up support from two more wavering senators as they raced toward votes on final approval next week.
Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Corker announced support for the tax package after Republican negotiators signed off on a final measure. The details of the bill will be published when the full House of Representatives convenes at 5:30 p.m. EST (2230 GMT).
Republican Senators Susan Collins, Jeff Flake and Mike Lee are still uncommitted, enough to sink the measure in the U.S. Senate. In the face of united Democratic opposition, Republicans can only afford to lose two senators on the vote.
President Donald Trump, who touted a tax cut constantly during his campaign, wants an approved bill on his desk for his signature before Christmas. It would be Trump’s first major legislative victory since taking office in January.
Corker, who opposed the earlier bill that passed the Senate because it would increase the deficit too much, said the final measure was “far from perfect” but he would support it.
“I believe that this once-in-a-generation opportunity to make U.S. businesses domestically more productive and internationally more competitive is one we should not miss,” he said.
Rubio said he would support the final version after the refundable portion of an expanded child tax credit in the revamped bill was increased to $1,400 from $1,100. Rubio and Lee had criticized the initial proposal, saying it did not give enough tax relief to working families.
“Increasing the refundability of the Child Tax Credit from 55 percent to 70 percent is a solid step toward broader reforms which are both Pro-Growth and Pro-Worker,” Rubio said on Twitter.
Lee called the change “a big win” but stopped short of endorsing the tax package until he saw all the details. “I look forward to reading the full text of the bill and, hopefully, supporting it,” he said in a statement.
As the tax package has evolved, it has tilted increasingly toward benefiting businesses and the wealthy, a trend some lawmakers have said is a concern. Provisions for offsetting the revenue costs of last-minute changes also were troublesome for some lawmakers.
After resisting demands for weeks to cut the top income tax rate for the richest taxpayers, the bill’s authors did agree in recent days to lower it to 37 percent from 39.6 percent.
The Senate approved a wide-ranging version of the tax bill on Dec. 2 by a vote of 51-49, with Corker the only Republican to vote no. Earlier, the House of Representatives had approved its own tax legislation.
The bill’s supporters say it will stimulate business and job growth. Independent and nonpartisan tax analysts have estimated it will expand the $20 trillion national debt by at least $1 trillion in the next 10 years.
Collins has remained non-committal on the bill, in part out of concern about its provision to repeal an Obamacare federal fine imposed on Americans who do not buy health insurance. Flake has said he needs to see all the details before supporting it.
The Senate vote outlook has been further muddled by Senator John McCain’s admission to the hospital for treatment for side effects of cancer therapy. His office said he “looks forward to returning to work as soon as possible.”
Vice President Mike Pence has delayed a planned trip to the Middle East in case his vote is needed to break a tie on the final tax bill.