The story of how Republican Sen. Bob Corker was cajoled into supporting his party’s deficit-busting reverse-Robin-Hood tax bill appears to be a bit more interesting than we first thought. Longtime Bob Corker watchers naturally presumed that Bob Corker switched from having principled objections to the bill to an emphatic yes vote now because he simply caved to party pressure—part of the now-rote process through which a senator like Corker or Rubio puffs up their populist or deficit-hawk or party independence for a few days before, like clockwork, doing the opposite.
But it now appears that Corker may have indeed gotten something concrete in exchange for his vote. He may have gotten his own personal tax cut.
[T]he new provision, which wasn’t included in either version of the bill passed by the House and Senate, and was only added during the reconciliation process, gives owners of income-producing real estate holdings a way around that safeguard, effectively creating a new tax break for large landlords and real estate moguls. […]
Corker’s 2016 financial disclosure form says that he earned between $1.2 million and $7 million of annual rental income from real-estate related LLCs that year.
Sen. Corker is the fourth richest member of the Senate, and the added provision conspicuously targets the way Sen. Bob Corker makes his money—and the way he expects to make more money after his announced 2018 retirement from the Senate. There’s little question the modification to the bill represents a personal windfall for him.
While it looks a little sketchy that Sen. Corker’s decision to support the bill happened immediately after a provision was added that will benefit him, personally, to the tune of a whole lot more money than you’ll make this year, might it have been simple coincidence? Not according to fellow Sen. John Cornyn, who admitted on the Sunday shows that the provision was explicitly added to court the votes of unnamed holdout senators.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the majority whip, on Sunday said a provision that could personally enrich key Republican lawmakers was added to the final tax bill as part of an effort to “cobble together the votes we needed to get this bill passed.” Cornyn was pressed about the provision on ABC’s “This Week,” after an International Business Times investigation showed that Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee suddenly switched his vote to “yes” after GOP leaders added the provision, which could boost Corker’s real estate income.
So we know the provision was added to push senators like Bob Corker into supporting the bill, and we know Bob Corker is going to personally make a lot of money from this one change. If you were a cynic, and if you’re closing out the year of 2017 in the United States and haven’t yet devolved into being a cynic then you are a better person than most of us will ever hope to be, it doesn’t take reading between too many lines to suspect that Corker’s modified stance has less to do with the national finances than, sotto voce, his own.
But Sen. Corker has an interesting defense. According to Bob Corker, he was not swayed by the inclusion of this new personal tax cut because he didn’t read the bill before announcing his support for it.
In an exclusive interview with International Business Times, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn, denied knowing about a controversial last-minute provision slipped into the Republican tax bill that could personally enrich him. Corker, the lone Republican to vote against the original Senate bill, which didn’t include the provision, also admitted he has not read the final tax bill he announced he will support.
I suspect we have to believe him on that last part, where he says he never read the bill to begin with and was relying on, quote, “a two-page summary I went through with leadership.” As to whether the tax provision inserted to nudge a few more Republican votes in the yes direction, he denies knowing “what the provision does to be honest.”
“I had no knowledge of this and would have no knowledge of it except for you guys are calling me about it. I have no idea whatsoever whether it impacts me or doesn’t impact me.”
So the message we’re going to have to take from this is not that individual wealthy Republican senators are crafting a bill with provisions focused on cutting their own personal taxes, it’s that individual wealthy Republican senators are, according to themselves, crafting a bill with provisions focused on cutting their own taxes with little to no knowledge of what those provisions actually do.
This is intended as the defense, mind you; this what Bob Corker is piping up in calls to journalists in order to deny that it’s the other thing.