Senate passes tax bill, pushing it closer to Trump's desk

The Senate approved the Republican tax-cut bill in a 51-48 vote on Wednesday morning, inching closer to finishing off the first major legislative victory of President TrumpDonald John TrumpGillibrand backs federal classification of third gender: report Former Carter pollster, Bannon ally Patrick Caddell dies at 68 Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN Ambassador job MORE’s tenure.

The party-line Senate vote came hours after the House on Tuesday approved the sweeping legislation in a 227-203 vote.

The Senate vote was briefly interrupted by protesters, who were removed from the Senate chamber after yelling at senators from the gallery, including chants of "kill the bill, don't kill us" and "you're fired."

One protester specifically called out Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (R-Ariz.), urging him to save the Affordable Care Act. 

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Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinHillicon Valley: Facebook weighs crackdown on anti-vaccine content | Lyft challenges Trump fuel standards rollback | Illinois tries to woo Amazon | New round of China trade talks next week On The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week Treasury sanctions top Maduro allies in Venezuela MORE was also on the Senate floor during the vote, with several GOP senators going up to talk with him and shake his hand.

But the House will have to vote again on Wednesday to get the bill to the White House because of a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian that two provisions in the House-passed bill didn't comply with budget rules that Republicans are using to prevent Democrats from mounting a filibuster.

The eleventh hour procedural snag amounted to a small win for Democrats on a day when Republicans were winning the war over the tax legislation, which would lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Green New Deal Resolution invites big picture governing ‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday hailed the legislation as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

“[It will] deliver historic tax relief to American families. It will help put our country on a trajectory toward more innovation and better paying jobs. It will repeal an unfair tax at the center of ObamaCare and will help America achieve greater energy security,” he said.

Final passage on Wednesday would amount to an early Christmas present for Trump after an often frustrating year for Republicans on Capitol Hill, who repeatedly fell short in their goal of repealing ObamaCare.

The tax-cut bill, however, does much to assuage the bruised feelings of Republicans. Besides resetting the tax code, the bill would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling and repeal the individual mandate to buy insurance under ObamaCare — a significant achievement for Trump.

The legislation caps off months of behind-the-scenes negotiations and public haggling as Republicans sought to enact major policy changes that the party has been seeking for years.

The bill would temporarily lower rates for individuals and families. It would also reduce tax breaks important to states and cities with higher taxes by placing a $10,000 cap on the state and local tax deduction.

Most of the bill's changes for individuals expire in 2025, though Republicans have predicted that lawmakers in the future will extend them — a move that would likely spike the cost of the legislation.

The Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’s official scorekeeper, estimated that the tax plan will add nearly $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. The committee has estimated that previous versions of the bill would cost about $1 trillion when economic growth is taken into account.

Republicans dispute those estimates, predicting the costs of the bill are overstated.

They argue the bill will boost an already healthy economy, leading to new investments by U.S. companies and preventing jobs from being outsourced to other countries.

But Republicans have struggled to beat back perceptions that their proposal primarily benefits corporations and the wealthy. 

A CNN poll released Tuesday found that 55 percent of respondents opposed the GOP tax plan, and two-thirds believe it will benefit the wealthy more than the middle class. A separate Wall Street Journal–NBC News poll found that 41 percent of Americans think the plan is a bad idea, an uptick from 35 percent in October.

McConnell, asked about poor polling, said Republicans were “just beginning to make the argument to the American people.”

“Look at the stock market, look at the optimism. I think the American people are going to be able — are going to begin to feel that the country is moving again after eight years of relative stagnation,” he told reporters.

But Republicans were repeatedly interrupted by protesters throughout Tuesday as they tried to tout the benefits of their legislation.

One woman interrupted House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanUnscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden Coulter defends Paul Ryan: This is 100 percent Trump's fault The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration MORE (R-Wis.) as he delivered a congratulatory floor speech in support of the legislation. As Ryan declared, “Today, we are giving the people of this country their money back,” a woman shouted, “You’re lying!”

Democrats have lambasted the bill for weeks, arguing it's tilted toward corporations and the wealthy, rather than the middle class.

"What has been sold as a middle-class miracle will instead deliver a hefty windfall to the wealthy and only [a] paltry temporary leap for some in the middle class. Others will see an increase right from the get go," Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerNational emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration Mandatory E-Verify: The other border wall MORE (D-N.Y.) said minutes before the Senate started voting on Wednesday morning. 

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHigh stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks Dem lawmaker: 'Trump's presidency is the real national emergency' Dems introduce bill to take gender-specific terms out of tax code to make it LGBT-inclusive MORE (Ore.), the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, also hit back at the GOP charge that his caucus didn’t want to participate in the tax bill, saying Democrats “believe the tax code is a rotting mess and has to be fixed.”

“[But this] bill was written in the shadows, written in the dark,” Wyden said.

The items struck from the House-passed bill were described by a spokesperson for the House Ways and Means Committee as “minor provisions."

One is tied to 529 savings accounts for home-schooling expenses pushed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

The Texas senator took a swing at Democrats ahead of the vote to strike his provision, as well as the other pieces that violated the Senate rules. 
 
"What every Democrat is standing up to do right now is saying, 'We're going to discriminate against home-schoolers. We're going to cut you out.' Why? Because the Democratic Party can't stand the audacity of a parent who would take it upon himself or herself to educate their child free of centralized control," Cruz said from the Senate floor. 

The second concerns an exemption included in the tax bill that would allow universities with fewer than 500 tuition-paying students not to pay the endowment excise tax. 

Wyden and Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSanders expected to announce exploratory committee next week Bernie Sanders records announcement video ahead of possible 2020 bid Bill Maher to Dems: ‘Let’s not eat our own’ in 2020 MORE (I-Vt.) seized on the ruling immediately, saying Republicans in a "mad dash to provide tax breaks for their billionaire campaign contributors" had run afoul of the chamber's rules.

"Instead of providing tax breaks to the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations, we need to rebuild the disappearing middle class," they said in a joint statement.

Naomi Jagoda contributed