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Hatch denies including tax provision to win Corker support



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SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Orrin Hatch denied reports Monday that he slipped a concession into the Republican tax reform bill to bring along GOP Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker.

The provision would make it easier for real estate developers to take advantage of a new, more-generous tax structure for pass-through businesses. It could potentially benefit Corker, who was active in real estate before being elected to the Senate, and the Trump family.

Corker has concerns about the tax bill running up the federal deficit but agreed to support the final version last Friday.

Meantime, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who was undecided about the legislation last week tweeted Monday that he will support it.

"Just finished reading the final Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. It will cut taxes for working Utah families. I will proudly vote for it," he posted on Twitter.

Corker denied knowing anything about the provision critics are calling the "Corker Kickback" in an interview with the International Business Times. He asked Hatch in a letter Sunday to explain how it got into the bill.

"I think that because of many sensitivities, clarity on this issue is very important and hope that you will respond in an expeditious manner," Corker wrote.

Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, replied in a letter Monday, saying he was "disgusted" with "false" reports suggesting he was trying to win Corker's vote.

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Hatch wrote that reports asserting the provision was "air dropped" in the final version of the bill agreed to by GOP House and Senate leaders last week and implying that Corker had some role in advocating for or negotiating its inclusion are "categorically false."

"I am unaware of any attempt by you or your staff to contact anyone on the conference committee regarding this provision or any related policy matter," the Utah Republican wrote. "To the contrary, virtually all the concerns you had raised in the past about the treatment of pass-through businesses in tax reform were to voice skepticism about the generosity of various proposals under consideration."

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., pushed for the provision and circulated a letter signed by 10 senators asking it be included in the bill. Corker was not among those who signed the letter, the New York Times reported.

Democrats and critics of the tax bill voiced their concerns on social media about the "Corker kickback,” a hashtag that went viral Sunday night.

Hatch wrote that the provision has been public for over a month, debated on the floor of the House of Representatives, and included in a House-approved bill. It takes "a great deal of imagination and likely no small amount of partisanship" to argue that a provision is somehow a covert and last-minute addition, he wrote.

The flap comes as the House and Senate prepare to vote on the tax overhaul as early as Tuesday.

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Dennis Romboy

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