October 1, 2017

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker told NBC's Chuck Todd that he will not vote for the GOP's tax cut plan if it adds a single penny to the deficit:

The Tennessee senator announced last week that he won’t seek re-election next year, a decision he admitted to struggling with. First elected to the Senate in 2006, Corker worked his way up to chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and aimed to forge some relationships with lawmakers on the other side of the aisle while also holding on to his conservative credentials.

"I told people that I couldn't imagine serving more than two terms," Corker said, adding, "a big part of the enjoyment has been never, ever thinking about a political race. You know, I almost didn't run in '12."

Corker felt this decision gives him "15 months of freedom" before he leaves the Senate. “I think I'm going to have more impact over the next 15 months than I've had in the last 10 years," he said. [...]

Corker himself likely could have faced a primary challenger in 2018, as frustration across the country has mounted with members of Republican leadership.

The timing of Corker’s announcement also coincided with the Republican roll out of their new tax plan — a longtime Republican target that seemed all the more pressing after their attempts at repealing the Affordable Care Act repeatedly fell through this year.

But Corker placed a very high bar for the tax proposal to get his support.

Rough transcript:

TODD: When you ran the first time, I looked at your early ads, you were a big proponent of the balance budget amendment, so it tells me you're a deficit hawk.

CORKER: I am a deficit hawk.

TODD: When this tax reform plan, tax cut plan, whatever tends up looking like at the end of the day, if it, if the analysis says it's going to blow a hole in the deficit, first of all, what is a hole to you? Any additional dollar to the deficit, $100 billion, where are you on this?

CORKER: So, I’m willing to accept the realities of where we are, and that is that we have a policy base, in other words, taxes, kind of like the doc fix, you know, we kept making up the fact that this was going to change. So I'm willing to accept current policy, number one. I think that's rational. and I’m willing to accept a reasonable score on dynamic growth – a reasonable score on dynamic growth. Joint Tax does those, some other groups that do it.

But if it looks like to me, Chuck, we're adding one penny to the deficit, I am not going to be for it, okay? I’m sorry. It is the greatest threat to our nation. the greatest threat our nation. It's like, Chuck, we've entered a party atmosphere here. You know, everybody was a fiscal hawk, kind of, not really, but kind of, right up until the election.

Now it's, now it's like there's a party going on up here. Okay? The heck with revenue, the heck with, you know, constraining spending.

So yes, I will remain a deficit hawk until I leave here, and I’m looking so forward to this tax reform debate because the one thing that hadn't been discussed is the $4 trillion in base broadeners that have to occur for this to be successful, and every lobbyist in the world is going to be up here fighting those.

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