RAY SUAREZ, HOST:
Congressional Republicans appear to be on the cusp of a major legislative victory. The House plans to vote on the GOP tax bill tomorrow. It could be through the Senate and on its way to President Trump soon after that. The bill's path was cleared by the support of a skeptical Republican who surprised a lot of people when he changed his mind Friday. NPR's Kelsey Snell is at the Capitol. Hi, Kelsey.
KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.
SUAREZ: We're talking about Tennessee Republican Bob Corker. He was the only Republican to vote against the original bill in the Senate. Now he's going to support the final version. Kelsey, the switch has been controversial. Why?
SNELL: Sure. So Corker announced that he would support the bill on Friday after saying he was adamantly opposed to the Senate bill because he was worried that it could increase the deficit. So when he decided he would support the bill, it raised a lot of eyebrows. There was speculation that Corker switched his vote because of a provision that would benefit certain businesses that incur a lot of debt like real estate developers and big manufacturers. Now, all of that raised some attention because Corker's business background has a history of real estate and construction investments. This was not in the Senate bill that Corker voted against, but it was in a version of the tax bill that passed the House before the Senate bill.
SUAREZ: Have we been able to learn how and why this was added to the bill, this new provision?
SNELL: So it wasn't so much added as it was included in the final product that was created as negotiators from the House and the Senate combined those two bills. So the two pieces of legislation that passed the House and Senate had really different approaches to making sure that businesses of all kinds paid a similar tax rate.
So what they did is they kind of knit the two together - took a little from the Senate and a little from the House. And Corker has denied that this change was what, you know, helped him decide. He issued a lengthy statement refuting that idea. He said he wasn't on the committee that wrote the final bill, and he wrote to Senator Orrin Hatch, who's the chairman of the Finance Committee - that's the group of people that wrote the Senate bill - to explain how the provision was added.
Hatch responded today, saying that negotiations built the tax bill by combining measures from both the House and the Senate, and what wound up in the final bill looked a lot like a provision in the House that was supposed to make it so these big businesses that create a lot of debt were actually treated the same way as other businesses that don't need a lot of debt to exist.
SUAREZ: Well, these suspicions, these questions have been raised. Are we altogether sure that that provision would in fact benefit Corker?
SNELL: So it's hard to know, but Corker does have a history of working in the real estate business. And it is possible that Corker could see a benefit under the bill. And so could a lot of other people, including President Trump and many other lawmakers. This is kind of one of those complicated things about writing a tax bill. It's one - it's a situation where there are winners, and there are losers. And lawmakers and - many of whom who have complicated business backgrounds - get to decide how the tax code is structured. So controversies like this are bound to pop up when you're writing a tax piece of legislation.
SUAREZ: NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell - Kelsey, thanks a lot.
SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.