Republicans in Congress finally passed a landmark piece of legislation — a massive tax cut and tax reform bill whose conference version was approved by both chambers on Tuesday.
The bill will now head to President Donald Trump’s desk for a signing, although the White House has not scheduled a ceremony.
Technically, the House has to vote one more time on the bill because three items in the bill violated a Senate rule. The truly final House vote is expected Wednesday.
But with a vote at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, the tax bill was passed. Protesters tried to disrupt the final vote by yelling that the tax cuts would cause deaths.
“Kill the bill,” one protester chanted. “Don’t kill us!”
“How can you do this?” another yelled.
Vice President Mike Pence, presiding over the GOP-led Senate, called things to order. It was always going to be close, as the Republicans only have 52 of 100 seats (and they will lose an Alabama seat later in the month to the Democrats).
The Senate vote was 51-48, in favor of the GOP tax reform.
“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is passed,” said Pence at 12:45 a.m. (The Democrats forced a name change, so the bill will be officially named the Tax Reconciliation Act of 2017.)
Earlier in the day, the White House readied a victory lap. After the House of Representatives approved the tax cut legislation at about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, by a vote of 227-203 (with only 12 GOP defections), the White House crowed about 2017.
“As December winds down, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to look back at what has been, by any measure, a historic year,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary. “Nearly 1.7 million new jobs have been created, and the unemployment rate has fallen to 4.1 percent, the lowest rate in 17 years. The stock market reached a record high more than 60 times and closed above 24,000 for the first time in history. We’ve rolled back 22 regulations for every one new regulation, saving taxpayers over $8 billion and liberating America’s economy from the grip of bloated government.”
But Sanders acknowledged she would have to wait for the Senate, much like the summer’s vote on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. This time, however, Senate Democrats were consigned to defeat early.
As the bill was debated into Tuesday night, Democrats unleashed all the old talking points.
“Today is a terrible day,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). “Working people will pay more so that giant corporations can pay less.”
Democrat after Democrat in the Senate claimed the middle class wasn’t truly getting a tax cut, and that the rich were making out with most of the tax relief cash.
Even New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a left-wing Democrat, bashed the tax bill while he was visiting Iowa, according to Washington Post reporter David Weigel.
“People were sold a bill of goods over and over and over, and they did not buy it,” said de Blasio, mixing his metaphors with bad results.
But for the GOP, it was a resounding success likely to be the main laurel of 2017, and the prime talking point in the 2018 midterm elections. The bill, much more than rate cuts, will reduce corporate, business and individual taxes by about $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
The bill cuts the top corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, a long-delayed GOP agenda item. Republicans have complained the rate, the highest in the industrialized world, was driving companies to Canada, Ireland, and other foreign havens.
Small businesses and unincorporated businesses will also see a tax cut to a top rate of 25 percent. The top individual rate will be cut to 37 percent, from 39.6 percent. Earners across the spectrum will see a tax cut, Republicans said. And in the final weeks, the GOP inserted a revocation of Obamacare’s individual mandate, a sharply unpopular tax on the uninsured that the GOP vowed to end for seven years.
Trump and congressional leaders hope the tax cut will keep the economy booming for the next several years. The bill was even named to keep it simple: the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. And during the Senate debate, Sanders and others pushed back hardest on the claims the middle class did not make out well.
“When an American family earning $45,000 per year gets a $1,379 tax cut next year under our plan, every Democrat who votes against it should have to answer one simple question: Does that $1,379 per year belong to that American family or the federal government?” Sanders tweeted late Tuesday night.
Not a single Democrat in the House or Senate voted for the tax reform bill. It was unlike the last major tax reform bill, of 1986, when President Ronald Reagan and House Democrats worked with a GOP-led Senate to pass a landmark bill.
Two of the provisions stripped from the Senate bill have to do with education. Fox News reported one was Sen. Ted Cruz’s provision that allowed home-school expenses be used in 529 plans. Another provision would have exempted colleges from a new endowment tax if the schools have fewer than 500 students paying tuition.
(photo credit, homepage image: Donald Trump, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore / Mitch McConnell, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore / Paul Ryan, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore; photo credit, article images: Paul Ryan, cut out, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore / Mitch McConnell, cut out, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore)