Pence Delays Middle East Trip as Nail-Biter Tax Vote Looms

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(Bloomberg) -- Vice President Mike Pence is delaying a planned trip to the Middle East as a potential tie vote looms in the Senate on the administration’s tax overhaul.

Pence, who was to leave for the region on Saturday, now plans to depart on Tuesday, the White House said in a statement, while Senate leaders hope to vote on the tax plan early next week.

“We are so close to passing pro-growth, pro-jobs tax reform for hard working families,” Pence press secretary Alyssa Farah said in a statement. “Yesterday the White House informed Senate Leadership that due to the historic nature of the vote in the Senate on tax cuts for millions of Americans, the Vice President would stay to preside over the vote.”

Republicans have 52 votes in the 100-member Senate, though Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee opposes the legislation because of its impact on the federal budget deficit and Senator John McCain’s health situation is uncertain. The vice president is empowered to break a tie in the Senate.

Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine and Marco Rubio of Florida have criticized elements of the tax package, though it’s unclear whether or not either would withhold support.

Republicans are rushing to bring the measure to a vote this year. Once Alabama state officials certify Tuesday’s election of Democrat Doug Jones, the party will lose the vote of Republican Senator Luther Strange, who was temporarily appointed to the seat before the special election.

Lawmakers were working Thursday to finalize details of the tax plan. Republicans have reached tentative agreement on a measure that would lower the income tax rate paid by high earners to 37 percent from the current 39.6 percent and lower the corporate income tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent. John Thune, the Senate’s third-ranking Republican, said he hopes to have a final text to release on Friday.

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