doe-oakridge / Flickr U S Senator Tennessee Bob Corker...
doe-oakridge / Flickr

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) on Friday dropped his “principled” opposition to the Republican tax plan and on Sunday was struggling to explain how this sudden about-face wasn’t because a provision had been added to the bill that would enrich him personally. To that end, he wrote Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch a letter explaining that he was shocked, shocked to find this provision and demanding to know how it got there.

Corker began his quest for information by, uh, reading the bill—having previously made his decision to support the bill based on “a two-page summary I went through with leadership.” But now that he’s been publicly embarrassed for voting to give real estate millionaires like himself a big tax cut, “I went back through the bill in detail” and found the not-at-all-a-bribe provision.

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 you provide an explanation of the evolution of this provision and how it made it into the final conference report.

As it happens, Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, has already explained how that happened. Asked by George Stephanopoulos how that specific provision ended up in the bill, Cornyn said that “what we’ve tried to do is cobble together the votes we needed to get this bill passed.” And since Corker’s was a key vote they were looking for, it’s not exactly a stretch to suggest that the inclusion of a provision that benefits him and people just like him might have been part of that cobbling together process.

But that’s probably not the answer Corker is looking for—he wants an answer that will make him look good. He’d been enjoying this whole “Bob Corker, principled Republican” thing he had going and then those pesky reporters went and ruined it by finding out that one of the principles the bill now serves is making Bob Corker even richer. Doubtless Republican leadership will try to oblige him and come up with an excuse. But good luck selling that. We know what’s going on here. 

Jam your senators’ and representative’s phone lines at (202) 224-3121. Tell them to vote “no” on the Republican tax bill.

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