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Politics In The News: Senate Tax Measure, Russia Probe Update


A Republican tax bill is getting closer to a final vote in the U.S. Senate. It could happen by the end of the week. President Trump is calling this the moment of truth.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You know, for years they have not been able to get tax cuts. Many, many years. Since Reagan. And the problem was they talked about tax reform, not tax cuts. I said, don't call it reform. Call it tax cuts. End reform.

GREENE: Well, whatever you want to call it, we're going to talk it through with NPR politics editor Domenico Montanaro, who's in our studio in Washington, D.C. Hey, Domenico.


GREENE: OK. So this was a procedural vote yesterday that Republicans got what they needed. This was just a vote, though, to begin debate on this bill. Is that a sign of momentum, or what?

MONTANARO: You know, not necessarily. That's a procedural vote to get it to the floor to a full vote, which a lot of Republicans are in favor of because they feel like that's the right procedure. But they have a ton of holdups. You know, there are at least half a dozen Republicans who have some problems with this bill.

GREENE: So now the real action could happen? I mean, even some Republicans who have concerns are like, let's just get this to the floor, let's open the debate and let's start working some of this stuff out, which makes me wonder how much this bill might change. And, I mean, this is delicate because Republicans can only lose two votes on this.

MONTANARO: Exactly. Yeah. They can only lose two votes. You have a bunch of Republicans who have various issues with the bill, whether it's the deficit and the fact that it adds to it. You have people like Bob Corker, of Tennessee, and Jeff Flake, of Arizona, who are saying hey, let's institute these triggers where you put them in place and if the bill doesn't necessarily amount to the growth that Republicans want then it would trigger a rollback of some of these cuts. But some experts are saying that's probably not the best idea in a downturn, for example, to raise taxes. You know, so that could be a problem. You've got, you know, a senator from Maine, Susan Collins, who doesn't like that you have the Obamacare mandate repeal in this bill, but Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is willing to sacrifice her vote as one in order to get people like Rand Paul and others on board. So a whole bunch of things here, David, that still have to go through tonight, which - we're going to see this this phrase called vote-a-rama come back into our lexicon.

GREENE: Vote-a-rama, the late-night votes where reporters and lawmakers and everyone, they stay up all night watching all of this take place.

MONTANARO: It's just what it sounds like. You just keep voting until you can't vote anymore.

GREENE: Till you can't vote anymore. When we first started talking about this tax bill wasn't President Trump reaching out to some Democrats? And that sort of seemed to go away, but now we have Claire McCaskill, the Democrat from Missouri, who told NPR yesterday that she could support some features of this tax bill. So is there a chance that this bill could pick up a Democrat or two, which might help Republicans get it through?

MONTANARO: Probably not. You know, Claire McCaskill has to, you know, sound like she's walking a line. That she could support features of the bill does not mean she could support the bill. And, frankly, when you step back here and talk to a lot of Democrats and some moderate Republicans, they don't quite understand why Republicans have gone about the bill the way they have, and President Trump, for that matter, because they do think that on health care and on taxes there actually is a middle ground where a lot of moderates would be on board to support something that frankly Republicans in the Senate and President Trump haven't pursued at this point.

GREENE: Let me just ask you briefly about another development in Washington. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, his investigation. Evidently, the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, met with Mueller's team. What do we know?

MONTANARO: Right. Well, Kushner's attorney confirmed to NPR last night that Kushner met with investigators from his team. But Kushner said - I'm sorry, but the attorney said that Kushner has, quote, "voluntarily cooperated with all relevant inquiries and will continue to do so." Now, that gives the impression Kushner may be a cooperating witness, David. Still this is more attention, you know, on something that's not going to go away anytime soon for President Trump, and that's going to be irritating for him.

GREENE: NPR politics editor Domenico Montanaro. Thanks, Domenico.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.