Merry Christmas, America, from President Trump!: Senate Republicans Pass $1.5 Trillion Tax Cut Bill 51-48 Despite Opposition From Democrats

The Senate passed the GOP’s $1.5 trillion tax cut early Wednesday morning, leaving just one technical hurdle and President Trump’s signature as the final steps before the president’s top legislative priority becomes reality.

There was little last-minute drama in the Senate, where the final tally was 51-48, hardly different from the original version that cleared the Senate earlier this month.

Not a single Democrat voted for it, just as no House Democrat voted for a version Tuesday.

‘The United States Senate just passed the biggest in history Tax Cut and Reform Bill,’ President Trump tweeted after 1:00 am.

‘Terrible Individual Mandate (ObamaCare)Repealed. Goes to the House tomorrow morning for final vote.’

‘If approved, there will be a News Conference at The White House at approximately 1:00 P.M.,’ he added.

The Senate passed the GOP’s $1.5 trillion tax cut early Wednesday morning, leaving just one technical hurdle and President Trump’s signature as the final steps before the president’s top legislative priority becomes reality.

There was little last-minute drama in the Senate, where the final tally was 51-48, hardly different from the original version that cleared the Senate earlier this month.

Not a single Democrat voted for it, just as no House Democrat voted for a version Tuesday.

‘The United States Senate just passed the biggest in history Tax Cut and Reform Bill,’ President Trump tweeted after 1:00 am.

‘Terrible Individual Mandate (ObamaCare)Repealed. Goes to the House tomorrow morning for final vote.’

‘If approved, there will be a News Conference at The White House at approximately 1:00 P.M.,’ he added.

‘The Sergeant at Arms will restore order in the gallery,’ said Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the chamber.

Pence’s appearance was a flourish that put him in the spotlight – though party leaders knew in advance his potential tie-breaking vote was not needed.

One protester yelled at GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, ‘Have you no shame?’ Flake voted for the bill, weeks after warning colleagues against complicity with Trump.

Before the vote as the debate stretched toward midnight, Pence tweeted out a photo of himself huddling with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and economic advisor Gary Cohn.

The House still had to sort through one legislative hiccup – after Democrats raised a procedural objection to minor provisions in the bill that the Senate parliamentarian ruled were not allowable.

‘After eight straight years of slow growth and under-performance, America is ready to take off,’ said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky at a press conference after passage.

Asked about a need to ‘sell’ the bill, McConnell said: ‘If we can’t sell this to the American people I think we ought to go into another line of work.’ It said it was a lot easier to sell ‘money in your pocket’ than what he called a government takeover of health care.

Asked about the bill’s low polling and Democrats’ warnings Republicans would ‘rue the day’ they voted for it, he said: ‘Every single Democrat voted for this. They’re all committed to repealing it and raising taxes on the American people. That’s what’s at stake in the fall of 2018.’

The parliamentary ruling, which got sustained after Republicans failed to strike it down, requires the House to revote on a new version bill Wednesday morning so that each bill is identical and President Trump can sign it.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer ripped the measure as ‘as sloppy and as partisan as the process used to draft it.’

He warned his colleagues: ‘Vote no. Otherwise, I believe the entire Republican Party, and each of you, will come to rue this day.’

He called for order during his floor speech and barked at colleagues who were talking rather than listening. ‘This is serious stuff. We believe you’re messing up America. You could pay attention for a couple of minutes,’ he grumbled.

Wavering senators removed most of the drama by announcing their support in advance. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, who Trump mocked as ‘liddle’ during an earlier feud, flipped from opposing the earlier version to supporting the final conference report that cleared the Senate Tuesday night.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine announced her support in advance, even as House Republicans signaled they did not plan to support insurance to prop up insurance markets that she got assurances from Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about.

Sen. John McCain, who provided a dramatic thumbs-down to the GOP’s ‘skinny’ Obamacare repeal bill, is recovering at home from his treatment for brain cancer. He announced his backing for an earlier version of the tax cut.

The hours-long debate Tuesday was mostly pro forma. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch bemoaned the lack of Democratic support – although leaders decided to move the bill through ‘reconciliation’ procedures that allowed them to circumvent the minority and pass it on a simple majority.

‘Where is this bipartisanship that this country desperately needs?’ asked Hatch. ‘Our tax policy is for the birds,’ he added.

Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon called the final bill an ‘abomination’ as well as ‘the biggest bank heist – not just in American history but in the history of the world.’

As the hours drew on, senators continued to inveigh one way or the other to a mostly empty chamber but with an eye toward C-Span and cable audiences.

‘Not a single Democrat would break from party discipline,’ complained Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. ‘Why? Because they are so united in their rage at President Trump,’ the president’s former primary rival said.

He said families would see benefits in their pay stubs within weeks.

Democrats saw their hopes dashed of scoring another dramatic defeat of a GOP initiative, after seeing the Obamacare repeal tank earlier this year.

With passage all but assured, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the leading Democrat on the Finance Committee, turned his focus to future battles, warning Americans that Republicans would be ‘coming for your Social Security and Medicare before you take you Christmas tree down.’

Just as Republicans were patting themselves on the back for passing a $1.5 trillion tax cut through the House, a technical parliamentary ruling is about to force them to vote on it again.

‘This is a day I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,’ said House Speaker Paul Ryan as the House easily cleared the tax cut conference report that party leaders made a must-pass item.

Ryan will likely get to relive his dream Wednesday morning, if as expected the Senate parliamentarian rules a few minor provisions included in the bill were out of order.

According to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office: ‘The House expects Senate Democrats to insist on a Byrd Point of Order on the Conference Report to Accompany H.R. 1- Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which is likely to be sustained.”

That would require another procedural motion to ensure both chambers are passing identical measures.

In that case, the House would meet at 9:00 Wednesday and then vote – just hours after Republican lawmakers cheered on the floor of the House after they got 227 votes to pass it.

The rule prevents certain types of legislating in what is nominally a revenue bill – crammed into a special procedure that only requires a simple majority to pass to avoid having to negotiate with Democrats.

There are a ‘couple little glitches,’ Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News Tuesday night, but they are only ‘minor adjustments.’

One of the out-of-order provisions lets people save in tax-deferred 529 plans to home school their kids, Politico reported. Another may deal with a college’s exemption from an endowment tax.

It is up to Democrats or any senator to raise an objection to force a ruling.

House Republicans pushed through a $1.5 trillion tax cut Tuesday, advancing the most consequential legislation of the Trump presidency toward likely passage in the Senate.

A Senate leadership aide downplayed the hiccup in the final stretch.

‘No one’s fault. They’re tiny provisions that don’t affect the overall bill. These small provisions were all that Dems could find. The House will pass again,’ the aide said.

An amendment by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz made it into the final conference report, allowing parents to withdraw up to $10,000 from tax-deferred 529 college savings plans for home schooling their kids at a younger age.

The plans could now be used for K-12 elementary and secondary tuition, including for home-schooling.

Aides were still scrambling to figure out how the technical ruling would affect the legislation.

Cruz touted the amendment on his Senate and campaign web site. ‘By expanding choice for parents and opportunities for children, we have prioritized the education of the next generation of Americans,’ Cruz said on the Senate floor when the amendment passed on a tie vote with an assist from Vice President Mike Pence.

A Senate GOP aide told the only portion likely to be knocked out involved home schooling – not the bulk of the amendment for the first time making 529s eligible for K-12 schools including private or parochial schools.

In states that define home-schooling as a type of private school, it is possible that funding could still be eligible.

In another blow, of the PR variety, Senate Democrats objected to the pleasing name Republicans attached to the bill, the so-called short title, the ‘The Tax Cuts And Jobs Act.’

The bill’s remaining long title is: ‘An Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018.’

Just 12 Republicans voted against the final conference report in the House. Among them were Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, the House Appropriations Committee chairman, Rep. Darrel Issa of California, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California.

All three of them represent high-tax states where some constituents could get slammed by a provision that caps the deduction for state and local taxes.

There was just one GOP opponent outside of the Democratic-leaning states of New Jersey, New York, and California – Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina.

President Trump lauded House Republican supporters on Twitter. ‘Congratulations to Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, Kevin Brady, Steve Scalise, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and all great House Republicans who voted in favor of cutting your taxes!’ he wrote.

Not a single Democrat voted for the GOP-crafted conference report – a steep partisan split that is already leading to questions about whether the cuts will be able to endure for the long term.

The White House maintained that the president could be facing a tax increase, even as it said his business would fare well.

‘We expect that it likely will, certainly on the personal side, could cost the president a lot of money. Again, the president’s focus hasn’t necessarily been at all on himself,’ said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Pressed on whether the billionaire president would have to pay more, despite the doubling of the estate tax exemption, changes for ‘pass through’ corporations, and the top rate reduction, Sanders responded: ‘I said that in some ways, particularly on the personal side, the president will likely take a big hit, but on the business side he could benefit. But the biggest focus for this White House has been to make sure all Americans are better off today, after this tax package passes, then they were beforehand.’

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sat in the House chamber for a portion of the final debate.

President Trump could sign the measure as early as Wednesday if Senate passage proceeds as planned.

The Republican-controlled U.S. Congress began voting on Tuesday on the biggest overhaul of the U.S. tax system in more than 30 years, with little standing in the way of the party’s first major legislative triumph.

In another signal of the low-drama move to final passage, Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine each announced their support for the final bill Monday.

That left the GOP within sight of victory even as Sen. John McCain of Arizona recuperated at home from complications of his brain cancer.

The Senate passed its first version of the tax cut by a vote of just 51-49.

‘This is profound change, and this is change that’s going to put our country on the right path,’ Ryan said immediately after the vote.

‘We said in 2016 that it would take real tax reform for families and businesses to get the American economy going. And we were serious,’ he said.

And he indicated that more tax cuts were on the way in the future. Individual rate cuts are set to expire in a decade under required procedural rules.

‘We have every intent of making those permanent … it’s obviously our intent to make all those permanent,’ he said

The initial tax legislation was introduced barely six weeks ago on Nov. 2, and the final House-Senate compromise text wasn’t released until Friday evening.

The race for immediate passage was driven by several factors.

Republican leaders were determined not to let the 1,100 page final bill linger so it might get picked apart by critics. On Saturday, just in the initial hours after it was announced, it was revealed that a change to the language for ‘pass-through’ corporations would benefit income-earning real estate holders like President Donald Trump and opponent-turned-supported Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.

In a show of Republican unity despite polls showing public opposition to the plan, the House GOP easily turned back a Democratic motion to recommit the bill to committee with instructions to change it.

Protesters in the House visitors’ gallery shouted ‘Shame! Shame!’ as the final tally was taken.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin sounded gleeful as he announced the final vote tally.

‘This is a day I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. We are about to change some really big things,’ said House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin in the final minutes before the House vote.

‘Today we are giving the people of this country their money back. This is their money after all,’ said Ryan, who has called the tax cut the culmination of a career-long dream.

Ryan cast the bill in kitchen table terms, saying it would benefit families ‘living paycheck to paycheck’ – even as Democrats pointed out the bill crafted by Republican negotiators slashed the top income tax rate, lowered corporate taxes, and doubled the size of the exemption for estates that come under the federal estate tax.

‘The biggest focus of this White House has been to make sure all Americans are better off than they are today,’ said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders after the House vote.

President Trump has denied he would personally benefit from the cuts, although personal and business rate cuts, the real estate change, estate law changes, the elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax, and other provisions would appear to help him or the Trump Organization he still owns, though does not manage.

Under the conference report heading to a vote in the Senate, estates worth $11.2 million would be subject to the estate tax, up from $5.6 million.

The bill slashes income tax rates, including lowering the top bracket of 39.6 per cent down to 37 per cent.

Corporate tax rates would plummet from 35 per cent to a new 21 per cent bracket.

The Senate could follow on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, after completing 10 hours of debate, lawmakers said.

The outcome of the House vote wasn’t in doubt Tuesday, as Democrats took their last opportunity to bash the proposal as it moved forward.

‘Today we choose what kind of country America will be: one that champions the ladders of opportunity for all, or one that reinforces the power of the wealthiest and well-connected,’ said House minority leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

‘Why aren’t they joining us on insisting for a better deal for American families?’ she said of Republicans. ‘Why aren’t they joining us in demanding that we write real bipartisan tax reform that puts the middle class first? Because helping the middle class has never been their goal,’ she said.

‘Republicans will vote to catastrophically explode our national debt … where are the vaunted Republican deficit hawks? Are they endangered? Are they extinct?’ she said.

Republicans pushed back against Democratic claims that the bill was structured to reward the donor class.

‘Opponents to this tax bill, they don’t really worry about tax cuts for the rich. They worry about tax cuts for you,’ said Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady.

‘Given the choice between the federal government and you, we choose you, hard-working American taxpayers. We choose you, the only special interest that truly matters,’ he said.

In a pair of early morning tweets Tuesday, Trump savored what would be his biggest legislative accomplishment as president.


He added in a second message: ‘Stocks and the economy have a long way to go after the Tax Cut Bill is totally understood and appreciated in scope and size. Immediate expensing will have a big impact. Biggest Tax Cuts and Reform EVER passed. Enjoy. And create many beautiful JOBS!’

With strict party-line votes expected in both chambers, passage appeared all but certain.

Republicans insist that the sweeping package of tax cuts for corporations, small businesses and individuals will boost economic and job growth. They also see the measure as key to having any hope of retaining their majorities in the House and Senate when voters go to the polls next November.

The end-of-year sprint toward passage represents a remarkable recovery of Republican fortunes since the middle of this year, when the party’s drive to dismantle former Democratic President Barack Obama’s Obamacare healthcare law crumbled in the Senate and prospects for a tax overhaul seemed doomed by party infighting.

Lingering doubts about fate of the tax bill all but vanished on Monday after two of the last Senate Republican holdouts, Susan Collins and Mike Lee, agreed to support the legislation.

‘I’m ready to vote,’ Republican Senator John Kennedy told Reuters. ‘I felt like we should have voted this weekend.’

Democrats, who unanimously oppose the Republican bill, railed against it as a giveaway to corporations and the wealthy that would add $1.5 trillion to the federal debt over the next decade and deepen the U.S. income gap between rich and poor.

‘There are so many rip-offs in this bill that people are going to say this is some kind of new Gilded Age,’ said Senator Ron Wyden, top Democrat on the Senate Tax Committee.

The House, where Republicans hold a 239-193 voting majority, was likely to see a smattering of ‘no’ votes from Republican fiscal hawks and lawmakers from the high-tax states of New York, New Jersey and California who oppose a provision that would scale back a popular deduction for state and local taxes.

‘It’s still a bill that’s going to give tax relief to other parts of America on the backs of New Yorkers. So I’m still going to vote ‘no,” said Republican Representative Dan Donovan of New York.

The legislation would also repeal a federal fine imposed on Americans under Obamacare for not obtaining health insurance coverage, a change that could undermine the 2010 healthcare law formally known as the Affordable Care Act.

Vice President Mike Pence took the precaution of rescheduling a trip to Egypt and Israel for January to be on hand this week, just in case his tie-breaking voting power is needed to ensure Senate passage of the tax bill.

Republicans, who control the 100-seat Senate by only a 52-48 margin, can afford to lose support from no more than two party lawmakers.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake was still undecided late on Monday. Senator John McCain, who has brain cancer, was spending time with family in Arizona.

SOURCE: Daily Mail, Geoff Earle and David Martosko

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