Trump tax plan hits bump in Senate as Rand Paul weighs 'no' vote

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Republicans scrambled on Tuesday to ensure support for a budget resolution vital to President Donald Trump's drive to overhaul the U.S. tax code, as one Republican fiscal hawk announced he might vote against the measure.

As the Senate opened debate on a fiscal year 2018 budget, Senator Rand Paul objected to spending levels that he said would exceed agreed caps by $43 billion, and called for spending reforms for so-called entitlement programs such as the Medicare and Medicaid health insurance programs.

"I will not vote for the budget unless it keeps within the spending caps," the Republican senator told reporters. In a conversation with Trump earlier on Tuesday, Paul said he told the Republican president: "I'm all in. I want to be supportive. I'm a 'yes' vote. But we have to obey our own rules."

RELATED: High-profile Congressional Republicans

14 PHOTOS
High-profile Congressional Republicans
See Gallery
High-profile Congressional Republicans
Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
House of Representatives Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)
Senator Lindsey Graham
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC)
Senator Richard Burr (R-NC)
U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AL)
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Senate Republican aides denied that the budget resolution exceeds federal spending caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Paul said the excess spending was for overseas military operations, which aides said are not subject to caps.

The budget resolution already had a narrow path to passage in the Senate, where Democrats oppose the measures and Republicans have only a 52-48 majority. A "no" vote from Paul appeared to put the budget a single vote from failure, threatening to upend Trump's drive for tax reform.

Another fiscal hawk, Senator Ted Cruz, has refused to disclose whether he would support the measure.

However, the Republican odds of passing a budget resolution improved unexpectedly when Senator Thad Cochran returned to the Senate despite an illness and said in a statement that he looked forward to "taking part in the debate on the budget and tax cuts." A day earlier, Cochran's office had said he would not be available this week.

With Cochran in the Senate, Republicans can pass the measure even if they lose two votes.

The budget resolution is essential to Trump's tax reform strategy because it would unlock a legislative tool known as reconciliation, which would allow Senate Republicans to pass a tax bill with a simple majority. Without it, a partisan tax bill would need 60 votes in the 100-member Senate and would almost certainly fail.

The Republican effort had gained momentum on Monday when two other potential Senate Republican "no" votes - Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski - indicated they were leaning toward "yes." Senator John McCain also said he would support the budget resolution.

After failing to overturn Obamacare earlier this year, Republicans fear they will face a backlash from constituents in next year's congressional midterm elections if they are unable to pass legislation to cut taxes for businesses and individuals.

Trump and top Republicans have proposed a plan to deliver up to $6 trillion in tax cuts over the next 10 years as part of a reform package that they say will boost economic growth and provide more jobs and higher wages.

RELATED: Trump and McConnell talk tax reform

13 PHOTOS
Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell
See Gallery
Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at his side in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, center, First Lady-elect Melania Trump, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, right, exit after a meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. Trump's first visit to Washington since winning the Nov. 8 election is a key step toward bridging the nation's painful divisions before he takes the oath of office in January. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (2ndL), U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (2nd R), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (R) and other congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at his side in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell leave after their joint news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
US President-elect Donald Trump gives the thumbs up after a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on November 10, 2016. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrive to speak to the media in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at his side in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 10: President-elect Donald Trump (L) walks from a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) at the U.S. Capitol November 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day president-elect Trump met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 10: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (L), walks with President-elect Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol for a meeting November 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day president-elect Trump met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (L) as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (L) Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (3rd L) House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (3rd R), Vice President Mike Pence (2nd L) and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R) during a reception with Congressional leaders on January 23, 2017 at the White House in Washington, DC. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump smiles during a reception with Congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (L), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (2nd L) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (3rd L), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (R) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on January 23, 2017 at the White House in Washington, DC. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Democrats, who criticize the Republican plan as a giveaway to the wealthy, will likely propose numerous amendments to the budget plan to prevent tax cuts for the rich and require legislation that would not expand the federal deficit.

"We're talking about a major political party now working night and day on behalf of the top 0.1 percent," Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, told Reuters on Tuesday.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives must agree on a budget resolution. The House has already approved a different version, so House and Senate Republicans would need to hammer out a unified version and pass it before reconciliation could take effect.

(Reporting by David Morgan; additional reporting by Tim Ahmann, Richard Cowan, Amanda Becker and Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.