HH: Joined now by United States Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina. It’s always a pleasure, and I welcome you back, Senator, good morning to you.
TS: Good morning, Hugh, it’s always good to be with you. Thank you so much.
HH: I’ve got to begin by saying that I believe that the Senate needs to investigate the college football playoff rankings, because Clemson is ahead of Ohio State, so there’s clearly something wrong here in this process.
TS: That would require a longer conversation than we have, but let me just say it succinctly. Clemson is robbed. You are correct. They should be number two and not number three. So I certainly agree with you 100%.
HH: Let’s get to the Senate Finance Committee. I just had on Bill Cassidy. His opinion is that the Senate’s Finance Committee will pass tax reform this week. Do you agree with him?
TS: I do. It’s time for us to start rewarding hard-working Americans and not punishing them by taking more of their money.
HH: And so are you going to vote as well, or did you vote already to eliminate the individual mandate?
TS: We have, we had a consensus of the Finance Committee that we would be voting to eliminate the individual mandate without question. The consensus was unanimous, and as long as we vote that way tomorrow or Friday, we are heading in the right direction.
HH: Senator Cassidy was also of the opinion, even though he has not whipped the bill himself, that the GOP conference has the votes to pass the Finance Committee’s version. Do you agree with that, Senator Scott?
TS: I think we’re on solid ground saying that we are there. I would encourage us to continue to work and address members’ issues. In my opinion, to not pass tax reform and to not return the money to the hard-working American is a sin and a shame. Therefore, we’d better get it done.
HH: And so you think you’ve got the votes?
TS: Well, I think we’re very close. And listen, I hear learned through previous votes not to say what you have until the day after you saw it manifest, but we are on solid ground.
HH: Solid ground. Does that mean 50 or 51 or 52?
TS: Well, it means 50 plus the Vice President is the number that I’m counting on.
HH: Okay, so you…now if it gets through, there’s going to be a conference committee with the House. How much trouble do you see, because there are some key differences between the two bills, Senator?
TS: Absolutely. So Hugh, if I were to name the two or three places that we’re going to have to work hard, it would be number one, on the state and local tax deduction we eliminated. The House keeps a $10,000 dollar property credit. That property credit will find its way into the final version, in my opinion. That’s a $300 billion dollar cost, so we’re going to have to be prepared to move some dials in order to accomplish that objective. Number two, I think we’ll have a little struggle, though it’s only worth a lot less money, on the $500,000 versus the million dollars of interest deductibility. I think we are on solid ground. The House will have to concede that point. And then the smaller deductions as it relates to the ability to deduct your student loans, our version has it in, the House does not. I think we come to the Senate version.
HH: So let me summarize. If you had to predict, you’re guessing that House will concede on HMI, and that Senate will concede on property taxes.
TS: We’ll have to. I think the House has been very clear. Both Brady, the chairman of Ways and Means, and the Speaker of the House have said, not suggested, that they will not vote for the Senate version without a concession on property taxes, because they will not then have the votes to get it out of the House with 30 plus of their members needing some concessions on the state and local taxes.
HH: But that’s a good compromise. If they put back the home mortgage interest deduction, which the Senate saved, the home builders and the realtors are happy, and if you put back, if the Senate gives on the property tax deduction, then the blue state Republicans are happy, right?
TS: Exactly. And at the end of the day, the goal is to make sure that the American taxpayer is happy.
TS: And if we can make the concessions necessary to deliver tax reform 1/1/18, we will have done something that has not been done in a generation. And that is one of the fastest ways to prove to the American people that we’re listening to their concerns. We will no longer punish them with high taxes. We will reward them with keeping more of their money.
HH: Now the individual mandate will be demagogued by Democrats. I asked Senator Cassidy about that.
TS: It started yesterday.
HH: And so what are you going to say to people who say you’re destroying Obamacare surreptitiously?
TS: Absolutely not. Listen, the fact of the matter is that the individual mandate is a tax on the poor and working class. Let me say it this way. $50,000 dollars is the household threshold where 80% of the people who pay the penalty live in households of $50,000 or less, $25,000 dollars households is where one-third of the people live in household of $25,000 dollar income or less, paying a penalty, paying a penalty for not buying health insurance.
HH: Which they sometimes can’t afford.
TS: …because they can’t afford Obamacare.
HH: Which they can’t afford Obamacare.
HH: Well, Senator Scott, come back and keep me posted. Do you think this gets to the President’s desk in the first week of December?
TS: I think we fight through this through the, towards the third week of December, but we get it done.
HH: Get it done before the Alabama special election?
TS: Well, that’s the goal, December 12th, but I think we’ll be, it’ll be tight, but we’ll get it.
HH: It’ll be tight. Stay in, stay late, get it done. Senator Scott, always a pleasure.
End of interview.