When Senate Republicans passed their tax reform package early Saturday morning, after hours of debate, some major donors — some of whose contributions were hinging on this passage — may have been just as happy as the lawmakers.
In the weeks leading up to the vote on tax reform, some GOP members of Congress were not exactly quiet about the financial repercussions they might face if they failed to pass something.
“My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,” Rep. Chris Collins told The Hill last month. Sen. Lindsey Graham reportedly said that if the GOP doesn’t pass the bill, “contributions will stop.” (Graham’s spokesperson said Saturday this quote was taken “grossly out of context,” but did not clarify further).
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In the hours before the bill passed, Doug Deason, a Texas financier and major Republican donor, said he agreed with Graham’s assessment.
“It’s just disappointing when you help put people in office and they don’t do anything,” he said in an interview with Fortune Friday evening. Deason had been open about the fact that he was withholding his checkbook from incumbent Republican Senators unless they passed tax reform, with the exception of Ted Cruz. ” If they get this done especially if it has the repeal mandate on [the Affordable Care Act] then yeah we’ll be very supportive of incumbent senators. ”
Deason said he had been much more involved in talks about the healthcare bill than he had been about tax reform. But he said he had met with Texas Sen. John Cornyn and his tax team over the past month, and Cornyn had expressed confidence the Senate would pass a bill.
“At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what the Senate passes, they just need to pass something and get it to conference committee,” said Deason, explaining that he wanted the two chambers to convene.
In the day leading up to the vote, however, some Senators were a bit more cautious about expressing the pressure from donors.
“I think some of our members have expressed concern about that,” South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds, who is not up for reelection in 2018, said on Friday. “But honestly the big issue is just the confidence of the American people. The American public wants us to get something done.”
“We really do care about whether or not the American people have confidence in what we’ve done,” Rounds continued. “And it’s one thing to have donors to say look I’m mad because I disagree with you because this is important. Those donors really feel strongly about the future of America as well.”
But if polls are any indication, the American public doesn’t seem to be on board. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Nov. 29, 49 percent of those aware of the bill opposed it. And the final version was not released until several hours before the actual vote.
Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, he lone Republican holdout on the bill, had decided against running for reelection. When asked on Friday about donor pressure other Senators were facing, Corker demurred.
“I have no idea,” he said. “I have not had any conversation with funders lately.”