Multiple news agencies report Tennessee Senator Bob Corker has sent a letter to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch asking how and why a provision was included in the GOP tax bill that could benefit Corker and President Donald Trump. The International Business Times first reported the provision that would reduce taxes on income from real-estate LLCs. Corker and President Trump own a large amount of real estate.
Corker was the lone GOP "No" vote on the original Senate version of the tax legislation, but made a surprise announcement on Friday that he would support the deal after a considerable amount of thought, saying it was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help businesses. Due to the reversal and the reported provision, the hashtag #CorkerKickback was trending on Twitter Sunday.
GOP leaders have sounded confident that they have the votes to pass the bill, but they can ill-afford to lose Corker, holding just a slim 52-48 majority, with all Democrats opposed. Republican Senator John McCain is likely to miss the vote as he recovers from the side-effects of treatment for brain cancer. Other Senators like Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona have expressed reservations.
Corker said in interviews that he had nothing to do with the real-estate provision and had not read the tax bill before he announced his support, just a two-page summary. The Tennesseean reports Corker sent a letter to Sen. Hatch that reads as follows:
Dear Chairman Hatch:
I appreciate the fact that on Thursday, as the conferees were concluding their work and before the weekend began when Senate staffs and members were going through the tax bill in detail, that I was provided with a briefing on key provisions in the reconciled conference bill that were different than those of the Senate bill.
Yesterday afternoon, I received a call from a reporter asking about what he alleged to be a new provision in the legislation. The suggestion was that it was airdropped into the conference without prior consideration by either the House or the Senate. Since this issue has never been discussed with us by committee or Senate leadership, I went back through the bill in detail today.
Beginning on page 25, line 3, there is a policy related to pass-through businesses and what is known as the alternative limitation on the deduction amount. My understanding from talking to leadership staff today is that a version of this provision was always in the House bill—from the Ways & Means markup, through House floor consideration—and in reconciling the divergent House and Senate approaches to pass-through businesses this House approach stayed in the final conferenced version.
Because this issue has raised concerns, I would ask that that you provide an explanation of the evolution of this provision and how it made it into the final conference report. I think that because of many sensitivities, clarity on this issue is very important and hope that you will respond in an expeditious manner.
Thanks very much for your attention in this matter.
Chairman Kevin Brady
Leader Mitch McConnell