Key Republican senator just became the first major defection on the tax bill

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin on Wednesday became the first Republican member to publicly declare opposition to the Senate GOP tax bill.

In a statement, Johnson said that the bill — named the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) — gives a lager percentage of benefits to large corporations while shorting smaller, pass-through businesses.

"Unfortunately, neither the House nor Senate bill provide fair treatment, so I do not support either in their current versions," Johnson said in a statement. "I do, however, look forward to working with my colleagues to address the disparity so I can support the final version."

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Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, speaks during the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Donald Trump sought to use a speech by his wife to move beyond delegate discontent at the Republican National Convention, only to have the second day open with an onslaught of accusations that his wife's speech lifted phrases from one delivered by Michelle Obama in 2008. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
OTAY MESA, CA - APRIL 21: Department of Homeland Security John Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Session speak to the media during a tour of the border and immigrant detention operations at Brown Field Station on April 21, 2017 in Otay Mesa, California. Secretary Kelly and Attorney General Sessions are on the second leg of a tour together this week after visiting El Paso and were joined by U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.(Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ron Johnson (D-WI) questions Kirstjen Nielsen (unseen) on her nomination to be secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Washington, U.S., November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
UNITED STATES - APRIL 5: Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., talk before the arrival of Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on 'Improving Border Security and Public Safety' on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Chairman Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) speaks prior to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testifying before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing on border security on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, from left, Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, and Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, smile during a press conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, July 27, 2017. Senate�Republicans are gearing up to try to pass a stripped-down Obamacare repeal plan many hope won't become law. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) speaks with reporters about the Senate health care bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 12, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) (L) speaks with reporters about healthcare legislation outside the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. July 18, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, speaks to members of the media in the basement of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. Senate Republicans making one last-ditch effort to repeal Obamacare have the daunting task of assembling 50 votes for an emotionally charged bill with limited details on how it would work, what it would cost and how it would affect health coverage -- all in 12 days. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senators John McCain (R-AZ) (L) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) (R) walk to their weekly party caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington September 16, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Billionaire Terry Gou, chairman of Foxconn Technology Group, center, and Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, right, smile as Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, left, speaks during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. President Donald Trump announced that Foxconn plans a new factory in Wisconsin, fulfilling the Taiwanese manufacturing giants promise to invest in the U.S. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, center, speaks while Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, second left, and Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina, right, listen during a press conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. Senate Republicans said they will make a major push in this fall's appropriations process to fund security enhancements along the U.S.-Mexico border, including a border wall. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Johnson told The Wall Street Journal's Siobhan Hughes that the bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, said that Republicans would need to seriously change the bill for him to support it.

"If they can pass it without me, let them," Johnson said. "I'm not going to vote for this tax package."

For Johnson, the biggest issue was the relative benefits for multinational corporations compared to pass-through entities, such as limited liability corporations and S-corporations. 

Additionally, Johnson said that he did not like the process being used to pass the TCJA. The bill was released last Thursday after being kept under wraps. Recent changes have come rapidly.

"I don’t like that process," Mr. Johnson told the Journal. "I find it pretty offensive, personally."

Republicans can afford only two defections. While GOP leaders are moving the bill through the budget reconciliation process, which only requires a simply majority vote in the Senate, Republicans control only 52 Senate seats.

Already, a handful of Republican senators have expressed misgivings about the legislation.

Moderates like Sen. Susan Collins have expressed concern over how much of the bill's benefits could go to wealthier Americans, as well as the bill's proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. Others like Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker wavered over the huge amount of federal debt that would be added under the bill.

Here is Johnson's full statement:

"We have an opportunity to enact paradigm-shifting tax reform that makes American businesses globally competitive, helps our economy reach its full potential, and creates greater opportunity and bigger paychecks for every American. In doing so, it is important to maintain the domestic competitive position and balance between large publicly traded C corporations and “pass-through entities” (subchapter S corporations, partnerships and sole proprietorships). These businesses truly are the engines of innovation and job creation throughout our economy, and they should not be left behind. Unfortunately, neither the House nor Senate bill provide fair treatment, so I do not support either in their current versions. I do, however, look forward to working with my colleagues to address the disparity so I can support the final version."

 

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