Sen. Susan Collins. (Alex Edelman/Zuma Press/TNS)

GOP leaders reach deal to cut corporate rate to 21%, lower top individual rate to 37%

WASHINGTON — Republican leaders on Wednesday agreed on a final tax cut plan that would lower the corporate rate to 21 percent and drop the top individual rate to 37 percent, according to a Republican source briefed on the deal.

Earlier House and Senate versions of the measure would have lowered the corporate rate to 20 percent, but in reconciling the two plans, leaders needed to nudge up the corporate rate in order to pay for benefits elsewhere.

Among those benefits will be a drop in the rate paid by the richest Americans, a risky move since President Donald Trump and GOP leaders have tried to portray their sweeping plan as aimed at the middle class.

How’s it going to help the middle class?” asked Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate.

Even some Republicans privately said such a change was risky since Trump and GOP leaders have tried to portray their sweeping plan as aimed at ordinary Americans. One GOP senator called it a “bad idea.”

Still, Republicans were determined to push the proposal forward for votes, scheduled next week, as they rush to achieve a year-end accomplishment.

House and Senate lawmakers met Wednesday on a conference committee to combine the bills from their two chambers, even though the agreement had been reached ahead of time.

The original House plan retained the current 39.6 percent top rate while the Senate version lowered it to 38.5 percent.

Among other compromises, the final bill will allow mortgage interest deductions on loans up to $750,000.

It will also include the Senate provision that will repeal the Obamacare requirement that Americans buy health insurance.

It will also include a measure to open a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling, a provision important to Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

“We reached the agreement,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters in advance of a conference committee meeting to discuss the two measures.

Hatch provided no details about the agreement. “I just want to talk to the president first,” he said.

Trump was preparing to address the nation Wednesday afternoon to push for quick passage of his top domestic priority. Earlier in the day he urged Congress to move quickly on the bill and said he would be okay with a 21 percent corporate rate, though the White House had previously insisted on no more than 20 percent.

Democrats meanwhile called for postponement of a vote on the bill until the new senator-elect from Alabama, Doug Jones, takes his seat. Jones’ victory will cut the GOP Senate majority to 51-49.

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