President Trump on Friday signed the sweeping Republican tax bill into law, enacting his first major legislative accomplishment since winning the White House.
Trump spoke at length during the signing, thanking Republicans in Congress for getting the legislation to his desk and predicting it would help the economy.
"It's going to be a tremendous thing for the American people. It's going to be fantastic for the economy," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. "It's going to keep companies from leaving our shores and opening up in other countries."
Trump said the decision to sign the bill on Friday was made late and because of criticism in the press that it was being delayed.
As a result, Trump was not surrounded by the congressional leaders who shepherded the bill to him. He even offered pens to reporters which are usually given to those members of Congress.
Trump said he was originally going to wait to sign the bill in a formal ceremony in January, but the media was asking if he would sign it before Christmas as he had pledged.
"I am keeping my promise," he said. "I am signing it before Christmas."
Trump noted that a number of companies have announced bonuses and new investment because of the legislation.
"Corporations are literally going wild over this," he said.
Trump touted various aspects of the plan, including the larger standard deduction, the increase in the amount exempt from the estate tax and the repatriation of earnings that companies currently have held overseas.
The bill’s signing ends the president’s first year in office on a high note.
The president has had some other successes as well, in areas such as rolling back regulations and getting a new Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch, confirmed. But Republicans were unable to repeal and replace ObamaCare, and the headlines over the past year have also at times been dominated by the Russia election meddling investigations and palace intrigue stories about disagreements among Trump's staff.
Trump had been calling for tax cuts since the early days of his presidential campaign. He first released a tax plan in September 2015, about three months after announcing his candidacy.
Over the summer and fall of this year, the president gave a series of speeches across the country in an effort to sell the GOP’s tax-cut efforts to the public — calling the plan a “middle-class miracle.”
He also took to Twitter to weigh in on aspects of the legislation. For example, he pushed back after reports emerged that lawmakers were considering lower limits on pre-tax contributions to 401(k) retirement plans. He also urged lawmakers to include repeal of ObamaCare’s individual mandate in the bill — a priority that eventually became a reality.
Trump said Friday that the individual mandate is "a very unfair and very unpopular provision."
Echoing comments he made earlier in the week, he said he thinks essentially "ObamaCare is over," though the tax bill doesn't make changes to the exchanges and subsidies created by the health-care law.
Members of Trump’s economic team worked with congressional GOP leadership to produce a tax framework in September of this year that provided guidelines to the tax-writing committees as they drafted bills. The administration let lawmakers take the lead in crafting the details of legislation, but provided some technical expertise.
Trump praised many of the GOP lawmakers involved in passing the bill, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer vows to vote on Biden Supreme Court pick with 'all deliberate speed' It's time for 'Uncle Joe' to take off the gloves against Manchin and Sinema Democrats should ignore Senators Manchin and Sinema MORE (R-Ky.), who he has criticized in the past. The president called McConnell "fantastic."
The new tax law lowers rates for individuals and corporations and creates a new deduction for “pass-through” businesses whose income is taxed through the individual code. It also roughly doubles the standard deduction, increases the child tax credit and curbs a number of tax breaks.
In order to comply with Senate budget rules, the tax cuts for individuals and pass-throughs expire after 2025, while the lower corporate tax rate is permanent.
Republicans in Congress were united throughout the tax-overhaul process, determined to show the public that they could govern after their setbacks on health care. Every GOP senator present voted for the final package, and there were only 12 defections among House Republicans.
Trump publicly made efforts to try to get Democrats to vote for the measure as well — particularly senators facing 2018 reelection bids in states the president carried in 2016. But while the president gave speeches on the tax plan in states with vulnerable Democratic senators, such as Missouri, North Dakota, Indiana and Pennsylvania, no Democrat in either chamber of Congress ultimately backed the package.
Democrats have focused on the fact that some taxpayers would see tax increases and have argued that the largest benefits will go to wealthy people like the president. They think attacking Republicans on the plan will help them in the midterms since polls show the measure is unpopular with the public.
But Republicans are brushing off the polls, arguing that public opinion will change in February when people start to see higher take-home pay. They argue that the bill will be a winner because it will boost job creation, wages and the economy.