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House narrowly passes 2018 budget bill, moves to speed up tax reform

By Sara Shayanian
House narrowly passes 2018 budget bill, moves to speed up tax reform
Republicans are planning to fast-track tax reform after the House passed a budget resolution Thursday. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 26 (UPI) -- The House of Representatives narrowly passed the 2018 budget resolution on Thursday in an effort to move towards fast-tracking a tax reform bill.

Republicans can now accelerate their tax overhaul package that will add $1.5 trillion to the deficit -- a process called reconciliation.

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The budget passed on a 216-212 vote, with 20 Republicans going against the resolution -- narrowly beating the maximum allowable threshold of 22 dissenters.

The pressure to advance tax reform convinced even many conservative lawmakers in the House Freedom Caucus, who wanted greater spending cuts, to get on board with the Senate's budget resolution.

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GOP leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, have a goal to pass a tax code overhaul by Thanksgiving -- the prevalent issue on their agenda after the previous priority, repealing the Affordable Care Act, failed.

Democrats, none of whom voted for Thursday's budget resolution, criticized it for cutting almost $2 trillion in funding for social programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

"There's a lot of unjustifiable provisions in this budget," Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth said. "On top of massive tax cuts for the rich, it cuts vital national investments, threatening our economic progress and our national security."

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The narrow passage Thursday came after a band of Republicans from high-tax states threatened to vote 'no' on the budget unless GOP leaders removed a provision to peel back the State and Local Tax Deduction.

The deduction, known as SALT, is a tax break used by nearly one-third of filers.

Although curbing SALT could help generate more than $1 trillion dollars to help pay for more tax cuts over 10 years, Republicans in states like New York, New Jersey and California said the constituents they represent rely on the deduction.

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The Republicans rallying opposition to SALT's removal, Rep. Peter King of New York and Rep. Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, alluded to having enough support in the House to block the budget from going through altogether.

GOP leaders were confident that the resolution would pass ahead of the vote.

Republicans initially planned to negotiate before Thursday's vote as some lawmakers expressed concern over the SALT removal. However, the meeting was canceled at the last minute.

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