Senate nears passage of tax bill
WASHINGTON — Republicans used a burst of eleventh-hour horse-trading Friday to edge a $1.4 trillion tax bill to the brink of Senate passage, as a party starved all year for a major legislative triumph took a giant step toward giving President Donald Trump one of his top priorities by Christmas.
“We have the votes,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declared after leaders swayed holdout senators by agreeing to fatten tax breaks for millions of businesses and let people deduct local property taxes.
Party leaders hoped for Senate approval later Friday on a measure that focuses the bulk of its tax reductions on businesses and higher-earning individuals, gives more modest breaks to others and would be the boldest rewrite of the nation’s tax system since 1986. Debate stretched into the evening as lawmakers waited for Republicans to unveil the final version of their measure.
Republicans touted the package as one that would benefit people of all incomes and ignite the economy. Even an official projection of a $1 trillion, 10-year flood of deeper budget deficits couldn’t dissuade nearly all GOP senators from rallying behind the bill.
“Obviously I’m kind of a dinosaur on the fiscal issues,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the only announced GOP opponent, who battled to keep the measure from worsening the government’s accumulated $20 trillion in IOUs.
The Republican-led House approved a similar bill last month in what has been a stunningly swift trip through Congress for legislation that impacts the breadth of American society and is hundreds of pages long.
After spending the year’s first nine months futilely trying to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law, GOP leaders were determined to move the measure rapidly before opposition Democrats and lobbying groups could blow it up. The party views passage as crucial to retaining its House and Senate majorities in next year’s elections.
Democrats derided the bill as a GOP gift to its wealthy and business backers at the expense of lower-earning people. They contrasted the bill’s permanent reduction in corporate income tax rates from 35 percent to 20 percent to individual tax breaks that would end in 2026.
Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation has said the bill’s reductions for many families would be modest and said by 2027, families earning under $75,000 would on average face higher, not lower, taxes.
“Every time the choice is between corporations and families, the Republicans choose corporations,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.