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Senate chairman disputes report of Corker add to tax bill

In this Oct. 30, 2017 photo, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on
In this Oct. 30, 2017 photo, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on "The Authorizations for the Use of Military Force: Administration Perspective" on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)
Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The Senate Finance Committee chairman on Monday rejected as “categorically false” a report that Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee was responsible for a provision in the final tax bill that could help him financially.

In a letter Monday, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he was unaware of either Corker or his staff contacting negotiators of the final bill. Hatch also said the provision regarding a tax benefit for real estate had been unveiled by a House chairman Nov. 2 and included in the House version of the tax bill.

“It takes a great deal of imagination – and likely no small amount of partisanship – to argue that a provision that has been public for over a month, debated on the floor of the House of Representatives, included in a House-passed bill, and identified by JCT (Joint Committee on Taxation) as an issue requiring a compromise between conferees is somehow a covert and last-minute addition to the conference report,” Hatch said in the letter to Corker.

Hatch was reacting to an International Business Times report co-authored by David Sirota, a former Democratic political strategist who has worked for former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

House and Senate negotiators finalized the bill last week and included a version of the provision to benefit the real estate industry in the form of “pass-through” companies, which are businesses where the profits double as the owners’ personal income.

These types of companies can reduce their taxable income by 20 percent, but the Senate bill had only permitted them to do so if they paid wages to workers. The final bill enables the deduction for owners of certain kinds of property as well, a tax break that would presumably help President Donald Trump, his son-in-law and aide Jared Kushner and other officials and policymakers with real estate holdings.

Corker owns real estate and development companies. He opposed the original Senate bill, complaining about adding to the nation’s debt, but last Friday announced he supported the final legislation.

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