Senate passes 2018 budget in first step for tax reform

By Allen Cone  |  Updated Oct. 19, 2017 at 10:30 PM
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Oct. 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate approved the 2018 budget resolution backed by President Donald Trump that will serve as a framework for the Republicans' plans for tax reform.

The final vote was mostly along party lines, 51 to 49. The only Republican to vote no was Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Trump endorsed the Senate Republicans' budget legislation, which would cap a 10-year deficit hike at $1.5 trillion. The plan projects $2.5 trillion in revenue next year with a deficit of $641 billion.

"Republicans are going for the big Budget approval today, first step toward massive tax cuts. I think we have the votes, but who knows?" Trump wrote on Twitter Thursday.

Senators will vote on the legislation via reconciliation, which allows them to make changes to the House plan with a simple majority rather than 60 votes to cut off a filibuster. The Republicans have 52 senators but have nevertheless struggled to pass major legislation, including a number of attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The House of Representatives resolution calls for tax cuts that don't add to the deficit.

On Tuesday, Republicans won over a key holdout on the budget resolution: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

"I support the Senate budget resolution because it provides a path forward on tax reform," McCain said in a statement. "I have long supported efforts to fix our burdensome tax system and hope Congress will produce meaningful reform that simplifies the tax code, strengthens America's middle class and boosts our economy."

He added: "Congress and the White House must negotiate a budget agreement that will lift the caps on defense spending and enable us to adequately fund the military."

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., who has been absent with an illness, also returned for the vote.

But Paul had expressed opposition, demanding to cut $43 billion worth of "off-book" defense spending.

The highlights of the budget resolution for the next decade include reducing overall spending by $5.1 trillion and cutting non-defense discretionary spending by $632 billion.

The Senate draft resolution asks the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to reduce the deficit by finding $1 billion in revenue over 10 years. The House plan seeks $5 billion to reduce the deficit. Those plans could open the door to oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

If successful, congressional Republicans would rewrite the Internal Revenue Code for the first time since 1986.

"Because as we all know, our archaic tax code is a significant roadblock standing in the way of America's economic future," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said earlier this week.

On Wednesday, Trump met with Democrats and Republicans on the Finance Committee.

"It will be the largest tax cut in the history of our country," Trump said.

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