Republicans in the House and Senate have agreed on the terms of a tax bill, setting the stage for a final vote next week on legislation that would cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy and give President Trump his first major victory in Congress, according to media reports.
Prospects for the bill's passage may have dimmed after Florida Senator Marco Rubio said he would vote against it unless tax credits for the working poor were expanded. Bob Corker of Nevada has maintained his earlier stance that he won't vote for legislation that increases the nation's debt. Rand Paul of Kentucky also said earlier this week that he opposes a bill that puts the U.S. deeper in debt. John McCain of Arizona, who voted against the GOP's earlier effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, is in the hospital for treatment of brain cancer. Losing the support of three Republicans would doom the bill.
Vice President Mike Pence is delaying a planned trip to the Middle East as the vote looms because he represents the tie-breaking vote in the Senate.
All three major U.S. stock market indexes, which in the case of the Dow Jones Industrial Average had earlier set an interday record, turned negative shortly after the report about Rubio's potential opposition. The Dow was down about 43 points as of 3:10 p.m. The tax bill's passage is considered a positive for the nation's public corporations.
Many of the plan's details are unclear, and the amount of money that will have to be borrowed to pay for it hasn't been calculated. Earlier tax proposals have been estimated to add $1.5 trillion to the nation's debt over the next 10 years.
Several provisions of the bill have been changed. The combined agreement differs from the House bill by permitting taxpayers to retain a deduction for high out-of-pocket medical costs and a provision that lets graduate students avoid paying taxes on tuition stipends.
The revised bill calls for a corporate tax rate of 21%, compared with the 20% called for in both houses' earlier bills, and will cut the top individual tax rate to 37% from the 39.6% it is now. The bill retains plans to reduce such current tax breaks as being able to deduct state and local taxes and the interest paid on mortgages.
The new version of the bill also includes a repeal of the Obamacare requirement that Americans should have health insurance or else pay a penalty, and adds a provision that opens the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to energy exploration.
The GOP hopes to pass the bill next week and send it to Trump for his signature before Christmas. The total costs of the bill have to be less than $1.5 trillion for Republicans to gain passage without support from Democrats. The current Senate has 52 Republicans vs. 48 Democrats and independents who vote together. This week's election of Democrat Doug Jones of Alabama, who will replace Republican Luther Strange sometime early next year, won't affect next week's vote, should there be one.
"I see no need to wait for Doug Jones to become a senator," said Sen. Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, as reported by The New York Times. "We vote all the time in lame-duck sessions with retired and defeated members casting votes."
The bill removes the Senate plan's inclusion of the corporate alternative minimum tax, which was added as a way to pay for the bill but aroused objections from companies that said it would restrict their ability to use the research and development tax credit, the Times reported.
The legislation was prepared by Republicans only and has been the subject of no public hearings.
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