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

Bob Bryan

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."

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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