Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was still scrambling to do damage control Monday after it was revealed that he switched his vote on the GOP tax bill to yes soon after a tax deduction was added that could benefit his real estate investments.
Asked on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday about the late addition to the tax bill, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said it was meant to “cobble together votes” to pass the Republican measure. Corker was the only GOP senator remaining Friday who had declared his opposition to the bill. But by the end of the day, after the new deduction became part of the final bill, he issued a surprise statement announcing that he was backing the tax bill because it was an “opportunity” for business. Voting on the bill is expected to begin Tuesday.
Corker had long been opposed to the tax bill because of projections it would add an estimated $1 trillion to the federal budget deficits over 10 years. It’s possible that the latest version of the bill (with the government getting even less money with the new deduction) could mean even worse news for the nation’s debt. Corker’s switch was “so troubling” because nothing about his concerns about the deficit were addressed, tweeted Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.).
Corker is now being lambasted with the trending hashtag #CorkerKickback. The International Business Times has reported that Corker, other GOP leaders and Donald Trump and his family stand to pocket millions of dollars in reduced taxes under the new provision.
Corker has denied that his change of heart was related to the new perk and said that he had nothing to do with drafting the provision nor did he know it was in the latest version of the tax bill. Then why did he switch his support if he didn’t know what was in the new version of the bill? Corker admitted to the IBT: “I had like a two-page summary I went through with leadership. I never saw the actual text.”
Corker wrote Sunday to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Finance Committee, asking that he clarify how the new deduction came to be in the bill. Hatch’s letter backed Corker, saying that the Tennesseean had nothing to do with the provision and that he was “disgusted” by any implication that Corker switched to supporting the bill in exchange for the real estate perk.
The new provision tacked on Friday offers a 20 percent deduction on real estate and other income earned through “pass-through” entities, such as limited liability companies and partnerships. Such companies don’t pay corporate tax but pass through the income to owners who then pay through their individual tax returns. Under the new bill, Corker could save as much as $1 million in taxes on income from several real estate partnerships, IBT determined.
Corker’s press spokesman did not respond to a HuffPost request for comment. But in an interview with The New York Times, Corker called the accusations against him “disheartening.” There’s “nothing to buy me off with,” he insisted.
People posting comments at #CorkerKickback were unimpressed.