Though the House GOP tax bill is expected to pass in a Thursday vote, the count could hinge on a handful of undecided California Republicans.
Eight of the state’s Republicans plan to vote for the bill and one is leaning toward voting yes. Four others are undecided, and only Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) has said he will oppose the bill. About a dozen Republican lawmakers from across the country have expressed reservations and about a dozen others plan to vote no, meaning the vote could be close.
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) has been arguing with his colleagues all week, imploring them to consider revisions to the bill. He stood up at a closed meeting of House Republicans and urged them to “leave no taxpayer behind.”
His concerns drew the attention of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who spoke with him afterward. But McClintock, who was just added to the list of 10 Republicans that Democrats are targeting in next year’s midterm election, remained unconvinced.
“I’m still awaiting a satisfactory assurance that the end product will not do harm to American families,” he said Wednesday.
Costa Mesa Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s constituents could take a big financial hit under the House tax bill. While he appeared to be leaning toward voting for the plan early on, he said this week he was still undecided.
"I don't know. I'm looking at all the numbers that are being bandied around, and the numbers as to whether or not a significant number of my constituents are going to be facing a tax increase, and if that is the case, I'm not going to vote for it," Rohrabacher said Tuesday.
But he also said he might vote for it in hopes of a compromise when the House and Senate negotiate a final bill. Rohrabacher, who is considered among the state’s most vulnerable lawmakers, said he was hoping something in the bill would stand out to help him decide.
"I'm just really intensely looking at it," Rohrabacher said. "This is not a clear-cut decision because there are many different factors at play."
Rep. Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley) said he was praying on how to vote.
“We’re still talking about; that’s all. I’m just still talking about it. I have to say my prayers and get divine guidance,” Cook said. “And if I’m right, I’m going to vote the right way and go to a race track right afterward.”
While several California yes votes will come from enthusiastic supporters of the legislation, like House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, some Californians in the House said they planned to vote for the bill Thursday just to move it forward. Similar to Rohrabacher, they expect changes when a final bill is negotiated between the House and Senate.
The current Senate bill contains even deeper cuts to the state and local tax break, but maintains the mortgage interest deduction. It also repeals the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, a move that could further complicate things for some members.
Rep. Mimi Walters, whose Irvine district is also considered at risk in next year's midterm election, said Wednesday that House leaders had assured her they would address concerns about the mortgage interest and state and local tax deductions in the final bill.
“California is a very liberal state. We have very liberal policies, we have very high taxes, we have a very high cost of housing, and we want to make sure that our middle-income Americans have more money in their pocket at the end of the day when this bill is complete and put on the president’s desk,” Walters said. “They have given us assurance that they will help provide some more relief for Californians.”
Rep. Steve Knight of Palmdale, who had voiced concerns early on and represents another vulnerable Republican district, said Tuesday he was leaning toward voting yes.
"There's a lot of great things that stand out about the tax bill. We're getting it to a place where if we can just work out a couple of these smaller issues, we know the economy is going to boom with this," Knight said. "We're still talking — we're still chatting."
"This is a pretty good bill from a business standpoint and a poorly thought-out bill on the nonbusiness side," Issa said Tuesday. "I know it's not going to change, and I'm just going to have to make a vote of conscience."
Staff writer Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.