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Can Senate GOP get the votes for tax and funding bills?

Republicans need at least some Democratic votes to pass a government funding bill by next week's deadline, but a morning tweet by President Trump prompted the Senate and House minority leaders to refuse a White House meeting. Meanwhile, the GOP also needs votes on tax reform, with key members undecided. Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to take a closer look at the day’s developments.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The president and top Democrats went the rounds today over whether to sit down together and talk about keeping the government operating. As they did, a Republican tax reform bill moved another big step forward.

    Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You couldn't miss the empty chairs. And that was the point, as President Trump criticized Senate and House Democratic Leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi for refusing to meet at the White House today.

  • President Donald Trump:

    They decided not to show up. They have been all talk and they have been no action. And now it's even worse.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In a morning tweet, Mr. Trump preempted today's scheduled meeting with Democratic leaders, writing, "I don't see a deal."

    Hours later, Schumer and Pelosi pulled out of that meeting, saying the president's tweet indicated it would be a waste of time.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer:

    Leader Pelosi and I believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Republicans need at least some Democratic votes to pass a government funding bill ahead of next week's deadline. Meantime, the GOP also needs votes on tax reform, with some eight to 10 key undecided members.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We had a good day today. We had a phenomenal meeting with the Republican senators. It was somewhat of a love fest. They want to see it happen.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    After the president's visit, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stressed the complexities of tax reform.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell:

    It's a challenging exercise. Think of sitting there with a Rubik's Cube and trying to get to 50. And we do have a few members who have concerns and we're trying to address them.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    If Republicans can't get the votes on their own, today, a group of Democratic senators said they're ready to work on a different tax deal.

  • Sen. Claire McCaskill:

    The way you get permanent tax reform is by getting more than 60 votes. And the way you do that is by working in a bipartisan way. What we show here today is that that is possible. It is not only possible, it is probable that that would occur, if they would just work with us.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    One final test for Republicans? Protesters interrupted the tax bill's final committee vote. It was hard to hear, but all Republicans on the budget committee voted yes, sending the tax bill to the full Senate.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Lisa, that tax vote in the Senate Budget Committee sent all of the major stock indexes to record highs. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 250 points, about 1 percent, to close at 23,836. The Nasdaq rose nearly 34 and the S&P 500 added 25.

    And now we turn again to Lisa Desjardins for more on this day's developments.

    So, Lisa, we heard the Senate majority leader call it a Rubik's Cube. The fact is, there is still a mad scramble going on behind the scenes to get this done.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right. They want to vote on this, Judy, in the next couple of days. And so now we're down to old-fashioned horse-trading.

    The truth is, there are eight or nine Republican senators who are undecided. Some of them were leaning no a few days ago. And here is what is happening.

    Bob Corker is a man to look at. He's someone who is concerned about the deficit effects of this bill. Well, enter the Corker compromise. This is a new idea out today that Senator Corker says he likes. It would be the idea to try and prevent a deficit hike because of tax cuts by installing a trigger into the bill, so that if the economy does not grow by as much as Republicans hope, then the tax cuts would be frozen.

    Now, of course, some people would say, well, that means that taxes would go up, but Bob Corker says he likes it because it protects the deficit.

    Another key player, Judy, Senator Susan Collins of Maine. We talk about her a lot and her vote. She seems to be warming up to this bill because she feels that she has got some reason to hope that they will include in this bill some protections to stabilize the health care markets, or perhaps pass a side bill that stabilizes the health care markets.

    And we heard the president said in the lunch today to her that he supports an increase or adding back some of those state and local tax deductions, specifically the House version, a $10,000 property tax. Susan Collins likes that. So a lot of add-ons at this moment right now, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Lisa, you were telling us that if these changes are made, that is going to create potentially problems getting some other votes.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes, here's where the Rubik's Cube comes in. Right?

    You might get red on one side, but then on the other end it looks terrible. I talked to, for example, Louisiana Senator John Kennedy. He said this Corker compromise, the idea of a trigger that might lead to a tax change in the future automatically, he is a hard no on that. You gain Corker's vote, you lose Kennedy's vote and also maybe Ted Cruz's vote.

    How about Susan Collins' idea on the health care and stabilizing the health care markets? Well, you might get that through the Senate, but that money that she wants to spend to do that is a problem in the House. So all of this is very tricky calculus.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But are they still looking at a vote this week?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    They are. They're hoping for a vote on Thursday. I will tell you what, Judy, the way we will know a little bit more is tomorrow.

    If the Senate moves to this bill, if they bring the bill up on the floor tomorrow, that will start 20 hours of debate that would lead to a potential Thursday vote. If we don't see the bill come up tomorrow, it means maybe there's more going on behind the scenes and that they don't quite have it ready yet.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, meantime, Lisa, while all this work on the tax reform is happening, there separately are — is still a big problem with funding the government.

    I think we're, what, 10 days from seeing the government shut down if they don't come to an agreement. As we saw with Leader Pelosi and Senator Schumer, they're not even talking to the White House. The White House isn't talking to them.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right. They're not even in the same room together to discuss how to keep government running.

    And this is a December 8 deadline that Congress itself set for when government funding will run out, the end of next week essentially. And, you know, Judy, I talked to a lot of Republican senators, the governing party in the Senate, and I was surprised to hear many of them say, we're actually not worried about it. It's not even on our radar. We're not sure how we're going to figure it out.

    I think the idea here, Judy — and we have seen this before — is that once they get past tax reform, if they do, then they will figure it out next week. And, normally, that does work, but I think we have a very situation this year, many different pieces in play, with this spending deadline, including DACA, children's health insurance, and also military spending that I think I walk away from my discussions with leaders today thinking that who knows if we will have a shutdown, but it is possible because they're not seriously addressing it yet.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, Lisa, we are counting on you to straighten it all out.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Good grief.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I will try.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins reporting from the Capitol, thanks.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Thank you.

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