U.S. Senator Collins says undecided on final tax bill vote

WASHINGTON, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Republican U.S. Senator Susan Collins, whose support was crucial in passing the Senate tax reform bill earlier this month, said on Sunday she has not yet decided whether she will back the final measure negotiated by House and Senate leaders.

The moderate Republican from Maine has laid out conditions for her support of a final "conference committee" version of the tax proposal. They include assurances that federal Medicare payments will not be cut and that Republicans will support two separate health care bills aimed at reducing premium costs.

Republican Senate leaders worked hard to get Collins' support for the legislation, the largest change to U.S. tax laws since the 1980s that would slash the corporate tax rate.

The bill would lower the rate to as low as 20 percent, which Republican leaders say would encourage U.S. companies to invest more and boost economic growth. Democrats say the proposed cuts are a giveaway to businesses and the rich, financed with billions of dollars in taxpayer debt.

8 PHOTOS
Republican senators who were on the fence about the GOP tax bill
See Gallery
Republican senators who were on the fence about the GOP tax bill

Ron Johnson of Wisconsin

Susan Collins of Maine

Jeff Flake of Arizona

John McCain of Arizona

Bob Corker of Tennessee

Steve Daines of Montana

James Lankford of Oklahoma

Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Collins' vote was important since the Senate approved the bill by 51-49 vote after an 11th-hour scramble. With Republican Senator Bob Corker voting against the bill, there is little margin for losing support.

"I'm going to look at what comes out of the conference committee meeting to reconcile the differences between the Senate and House bill. So I won't make a final decision until I see what that package is," she said on the CBS "Face the Nation" program on Sunday.

If Collins and Corker vote against the final tax bill, leading to a 50-50 tie, Republican Vice President Mike Pence would cast the winning vote. But if more than two Republican senators vote no, it would fail.

The House–Senate conference will hold an open meeting on Wednesday afternoon as it starts to reconcile differences.

Collins voted for the Senate's tax reform legislation after Republican leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, promised to support legislation to prop up U.S. health insurance markets.

But last week The Hill newspaper reported that House Speaker Paul Ryan told his staff that he wasn’t part of the deal that Collins brokered with Senate leaders.

Collins said she is "absolutely confident" of the leaders' support and both McConnell and Ryan have put in writing that they will not allow a 4 percent cut in Medicare payments to take effect.

"I have read in correspondence that memorializes the agreement that the 4 percent cut in Medicare that could go into effect will not go into effect," she said.

She added that she has the support of President Donald Trump, with whom she has discussed the issue three times.

"I have no reason to believe that that commitment will not be kept," she said.

12 PHOTOS
Sen. Susan Collins
See Gallery
Sen. Susan Collins
U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) speaks during an interview in her office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 24, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
U.S. Senator Susan Collins, R, (R-ME), talks with Senator Dean Heller, L, (R-NV) during a meeting held by President Donald Trump on healthcare in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins listens as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Senate Republicans about healthcare in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) talks to reporters as she leaves a meeting of the Senate Republican caucus to unveiling of Senate Republicans' revamped proposal to replace Obamacare health care legislation at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. July 13, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lamar Alexander (RTN) make their way to the Senate chamber to vote on a series of amendments on the bill to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline on Capitol Hill in Washington January 21, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ENERGY ENVIRONMENT)
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) speaks at a news conference with a bipartisan group of senators on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., to unveil a compromise proposal on gun control measures, June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) (L), Susan Collins (R-ME) (R) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (rear) arrive for former FBI Director James Comey's appearance before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) (L) and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos are seated next to each other as they attend first lady Melania Trump's International Women's Day luncheon in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 8, 2017. Collins was one of just two Republican senators to vote against DeVos's confirmation. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Senate Republicans about healthcare in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 27, 2017. Trump is flanked by Senators Susan Collins, L, (R-ME) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R, (R-AK). REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
SCARBOROUGH, ME - JULY 21: U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R) speaks during a one-on-one interview with a Portland Press Herald reporter on Friday, July 21, 2017, after a tour of the Maine Medical Research Center in Scarborough. (Staff photo by Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 14: Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) greets actor, director, and writer Ryan Phillippe prior to the Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing on 'Military Caregivers: Families Serving for the Long Run' on June 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - June 8: (From L to T) U.S. Senators Marco Rubio, Dianne Feinstein, and Susan Collins talk as they wait for former FBI Director James Comey to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian Interference in the 2016 Election in Washington, United States on June 8, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

Read Full Story