Senate tax plan, Trump held hostage as Flake and Corker play dangerous game

Editor's note: The following column originally appeared on The Resurgent.

UPDATE: This piece has been updated to reflect Senator Jeff Flake is now embracing the GOP's tax plan.

Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker were holding the Senate Republicans' tax plan hostage to their concerns, which could be addressed elsewhere and which neither have been too committed to in the past few years to do much about. They suddenly care about spending after giving Barack Obama a blank check to raise the national debt.

It actually looks more like they wanted to derail anything that could help President Trump and, consequently, derail anything that might help Republicans mitigate the damage that will otherwise be inflicted next year. If that is the case, I think Guy Benson is right that they risk setting up the GOP for a real purity test on support for President Trump's agenda. If Republican voters see people like Flake and Corker, supposedly Republicans, derail the President's agenda when even John McCain supports it, they'll be demanding blood oaths in primaries that candidates support Donald Trump.

This is a really dangerous game Flake and Corker have been playing. They claim to support the plan, but they have some concerns. They'd be more believable about their concerns if they'd ever really stuck to their convictions on those concerns in the past. Their willingness to obstruct the tax reform package will just make the GOP primaries in their home states even nastier and increase the odds of the Democrats taking back the Senate. But it seems pretty clear they do not care, or at least did not seem to care till Jeff Flake came out this morning saying he would not support the plan.

As of this writing, Senator Corker is still a hold out, though he says the plan will pass. Senator Flake has agreed to the concessions made by the Senate GOP leadership. They are, to put it bluntly, cosmetic changes of no major value. But they are enough so Senator Flake can show he got a concession and also show he is a team player. The question now is whether Senator Corker will want on the team or go it alone.

Had the men scuttled this plan, they would have been publicly blamed by the President and by Senate leaders. In both states, with primaries already turning into referenda on who is most likely to support President Trump, the men would be persona non grata within their own parties. Passing the tax plan not only helps the GOP at large, but it helps them both too. Jeff Flake knows it and Bob Corker will probably figure it out.