Senate Republicans pass tax overhaul bill

By Sam Howard  |  Dec. 2, 2017 at 9:03 AM
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Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Congressional leaders cleared a major hurdle Saturday by passing sweeping tax reform legislation in the U.S. Senate.

Senators voted to pass the $1.4 trillion tax reform bill by a 51-49 margin just before 2 a.m. The measure, among other changes, would slash the top corporate tax rate to 20 percent and lower individual tax rates for most Americans, NPR reported.

About an hour after senators passed the bill, President Donald Trump said on Twitter that Republicans are "one step closer to delivering MASSIVE tax cuts for working families across America."

The legislation also included a number of measures that were added in the waning hours of debate to appease GOP colleagues in the Senate.

Friday afternoon, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, posted a series of tweets outlining her support for the bill because of certain reforms. She posted a photo of a letter from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., which said that the tax reform bill would not signal a reduction in Medicare spending.

Highlighting that the bill would almost double the standard tax deduction, Collins said in a statement that Senate leaders assured her they would make a few concessions -- including allowing for a property tax deduction of up to $10,000 and lowering the qualifications needed for individuals to claim a deduction for unreimbursed healthcare expenses.

As GOP leaders rounded up support for the bill Friday night and into Saturday, Democratic leaders dug in on their opposition. One Republican -- Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. -- also voted against the bill's passage. Corker said he could not in good faith vote for a bill that would likely raise the federal budget deficit. A Congressional Budget Office report in November estimated that the tax overhaul would increase the deficit by about $1.4 billion over the next ten years.

The CBO score also estimated that the legislation would likely hurt Americans earning less than $75,000 annually because of changes to Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.

Many economic observers, though, have said they believe the bill would likely help grow the national economy.

Democrats called the GOP frantic to compile a bill that could muster enough support for passage. They said the bill catered to lobbyists and corporations. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., posted a video on Twitter just after 7 p.m. Friday, to point out hand-written additions made in the margins of the bill.

"This is unbelievable. We're doing massive tax reform on [an] absolute incredible timeline," Tester said in the video. "This is going to affect everybody in this country. It's going to shift money from middle-class families to the rich. It's amazing. And we've been given this 20 minutes ago, 25 minutes ago, and we're supposed to vote on it in a couple hours."

A few hours before Senators voted to pass the bill, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on Twitter that his GOP colleagues didn't make an effort to address Democrats' concerns with the bill.

"Tax reform is an issue that is ripe for bipartisan compromise," Schumer said. "There is a sincere desire on this side of the aisle to work with the GOP, particularly on tax reform, but we have been rebuffed, time & time again."

Senate and House of Representatives leaders, though, still need to reconcile each body's tax reform bills in a conference committee. POLITICO reported that House Republicans expect to vote on opening a conference committee early next week.

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