Bill passed in early hours of Saturday will benefit big businesses and the wealthy, and give Donald Trump his first major legislative victory
Senate Republicans have passed the most sweeping overhaul of the US tax code in three decades, a significant step that moves Donald Trump closer to achieving the first major legislative victory of his presidency.
The Senate passed its tax plan in a 51-49 vote early on Saturday morning, with Vice-President Mike Pence presiding over the chamber and after a frantic rewrite. Bob Corker was the sole Republican to vote against the bill, which would bestow huge benefits on US corporations and the wealthiest Americans.
We think this is a great day for the country, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said at a celebratory press conference.
On Saturday morning, Trump praised lawmakers and said he was looking forward to signing the bill before Christmas.
It was a fantastic evening last night, the president told reporters outside the White House before he left for New York. We passed the largest tax cuts in the history of our country and many other things along with it.
Now we go on to conference and something beautiful is going to come out of that mixer. People are going to be very, very happy. Theyre going to get tremendous, tremendous tax cuts and tax relief, and thats what this country needs.
The vote marked a significant feat for Republicans, who suffered a series of embarrassing blows earlier this year by failing to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Trump and Republicans in Washington staked their political fortunes on the hope that tax reform would not suffer the same fate.
The House speaker, Paul Ryan, said: For the first time since 1986, both the House and the Senate have passed a major overhaul of our nations tax code. Now we will move quickly to a conference committee so we can get a final bill to President Trumps desk.
The rush to pass the bill sparked outcry from Democrats, who said it would be impossible to fully digest the legislation before voting began. Lawmakers received the nearly 500-page bill, some of it handwritten, hours before they voted on a plan that will affect nearly every US business and taxpayer.
I defy any member of the Senate to stand here, take an oath that they have read this and understand what in the world it means to businesses and families and individuals, said Senator Dick Durbin, the minority whip from Illinois, holding up pages with notes scribbled in the margin.
In New York on Saturday, before a fundraising event at Cipriani restaurant on 42nd Street, Trump said: We got no Democrat help and I think thats going to cost them in the election because they voted against tax cuts. I dont think politically its good to vote against tax cuts.
After closing debate, the Senate began the tedious process of a vote-a-rama, in which senators can offer an endless series of amendments. At midnight, Pence arrived to break a tie on an amendment offered by Ted Cruz that allows parents to start savings accounts to fund tuition at private and religious K-12 schools known as 529 plans. The provision prevailed.
Democrats scored a small victory when four Republicans joined them to strike a provision that appeared tailored to benefit a single Christian college in Michigan with ties to family of the secretary of education, Betsy DeVos.
Not a single Democrat crossed the aisle to support the plan, which they attacked as a scam and a handout to corporations and the wealthy.
I dont think there is a person more bipartisan than I am, said Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, lamenting his frustration with the partisan nature of the process. Earlier this week, he joined red-state Democrats to urge Republicans to work with them on tax reform.
This, as I have seen it unfold tonight, it is not designed to have one Democrat on the bill, he added.
The House passed its own tax legislation earlier this month. The two bills will now be reconciled, presenting further hurdles in the coming weeks.
Republicans have contended the $1.4tn package of cuts enclosed in their plan will in effect pay for themselves through growth. A series of independent projections found they would not.
The nonpartisan joint committee on taxation projected that the plan would add $1tn to the federal deficit over the next 10 years even after factoring in the economic growth the bill is projected to generate. On Friday, the independent Tax Policy Center released similar findings, predicting that the Senate bill would add $1.2tn to the federal deficit over the next decade after accounting for increased economic growth.
McConnell parried, telling reporters: Im totally confident this is a revenue-neutral bill. I think this will be a revenue producer.
Senate Republicans used a vehicle known as budget reconciliation to pass the tax plan using a simple-majority vote, leaving them room for only two defections. On Friday morning, three key holdouts had announced their support. Leadership nonetheless spent the night locked in negotiations.
Corker and Jeff Flake, of Arizona, had sought to extract an agreement that would scale back some of the tax cuts in the event growth projections were not met. On Thursday, they unexpectedly held court on the Senate floor, after learning that a mechanism they created to limit the impact on the national debt was not compliant with the Senates budget rules. The tense showdown led Republicans scrambling to find a way to offset the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars.
Ultimately, the plans were rejected by Senate leadership, Cruz told reporters, after he and a number of others objected. That proposal did not carry the day, Cruz said. Those $350bn in tax increases are not in the bill and larding the bill up with new tax increases would have been going the wrong direction.
Flake announced that he would support the bill, saying in a statement he had secured two priorities: the elimination of an $85bn expensing budget gimmick and a firm commitment that Congress would enact permanent protections for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.
Corker said he would not support the plan, adding in a statement: At the end of the day, I am not able to cast aside my fiscal concerns and vote for legislation that I believe, based on the information I currently have, could deepen the debt burden on future generations.
Key to winning over Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Steve Daines of Montana was an agreement to expand tax cuts for millions of businesses known as pass-through entities.
Democrats remained united in their opposition, attacking the legislation as a giveaway to corporate America and the wealthy.
In the waning hours, this bill is tilting further towards businesses and away from families, said Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, in a floor speech on Friday. Every time the choice is between corporations and families, the Republicans choose corporations.