House approves tax bill, sending sweeping measure to Trump

Republicans in the House have given final approval to the biggest changes to the tax code in decades, sending the package to President Trump and completing their first big legislative achievement since taking across-the-board control of the government this year.

In a 224-201 vote, the House passed the bill for the second time in two days on Wednesday, after three provisions had to be stripped out because they ran afoul of Senate budget rules. The Senate approved the bill early Wednesday morning.

{mosads}No Democrats in either chamber voted for the bill, a bet that its unpopularity in polls will stick and hurt the GOP in next fall’s midterms.

Republicans think the legislation’s popularity will rise as taxpayers see its benefits, and only 12 House Republicans voted against the bill. Most of them were from New York, New Jersey and California districts that would be hit by new limits on deductions for state, local and property taxes.

In the Senate, every Republican present backed the bill.

Republican lawmakers and Trump are slated to celebrate the bill’s passage at an event at the White House Wednesday afternoon, but the president won’t sign the measure until a later date.

The bill is a major accomplishment for Republicans that reflects a number of the party’s priorities. In addition to cutting taxes, the bill also effectively repeals ObamaCare’s individual mandate requiring people to buy health insurance and allows for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Trump in comments at a Cabinet meeting ahead of the House vote hailed those achievements — and in the case of ObamaCare sought to make the case that it represented true repeal of the law.

“When the individual mandate is being repealed that means Obamacare is being repealed,” Trump said during a Cabinet meeting at the White House. “We have essentially repealed Obamacare and we will come up with something much better.”

Repeal of the mandate actually will leave the health exchanges, subsidies and many other aspects of former President Obama’s signature legislation in place. Experts believe that the mandate’s repeal could lead to a spike in premiums, however.

After failing earlier in the year to fully repeal and replace ObamaCare, Republicans were eager to enact a significant piece of legislation ahead of the midterm elections. Trump called for tax cuts on the campaign trail, and many GOP lawmakers, such as Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), have long sought to rewrite the tax code.

The bill cuts tax rates for individuals and corporations and also creates a new deduction for income of pass-through businesses taxed through the individual code. The top individual rate would go from 39.6 percent to 37 percent, while the corporate rate would drop from 35 percent to 21 percent.

The provisions for individuals and pass-throughs expire after 2025. In order for the Senate to use a process known as reconciliation and pass the bill with a simple-majority vote, the bill couldn’t add to the deficit after 10 years.

The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the bill will add nearly $1.5 trillion to the deficit in its first decade. But Republicans were unconcerned, arguing that the bill would create economic growth that would generate additional revenue to offset the cuts.

Republicans have praised the measure, arguing that this will boost take-home pay for middle-class families and make the U.S. business climate more competitive.

But Democrats were united against the bill, arguing that it primarily will benefit the wealthy and large corporations and blasting it for adding to the deficit.

When House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was asked Wednesday about Republicans believing they will reap political benefits from the tax bill, she replied: “Let them think that.”

Republicans have struggled to beat back perceptions that the legislation primarily benefits corporations and the wealthy. Public polling indicates that only about a third of Americans view the bill favorably. That’s less than the favorability rating of the health-care law when Democrats passed it in 2010 — and lost the House majority later that year.

But Republicans say they expect that to change in early 2018, when people see their after-tax incomes increase. Analyses of the tax plan indicate that it would lower taxes for people on average across the income spectrum, but wealthy people would reap the biggest benefits.

“When it gets in place, when people see their paychecks getting bigger in February because withholding tables have adjusted to reflect their tax cuts, when businesses are keeping more of what they earn, when they can write off their spending and hire more people, that’s going to change its popularity, I am convinced,” Ryan said Wednesday on “CBS This Morning.”

The bill is being sent to Trump’s desk less than two months after a version was first introduced in the House, and the process moved fairly smoothly with little of the GOP infighting that plagued the ObamaCare repeal effort this year.

But a last-minute hiccup forced the House to vote on the bill again Wednesday after advancing it on Tuesday.

The Senate parliamentarian ruled that three provisions in the version the House passed on Tuesday violated a rule that requires every provision in a reconciliation bill to have an impact on the budget. These provisions — one of which was the bill’s name, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” — were taken out of the bill before the Senate passed it.

The other two problematic provisions were related to the use of 529 accounts for homeschooling expenses and the exemption from the endowment excise tax for certain universities.

The number of House GOP defections in the vote on Wednesday was the same as the vote the previous day, with only 12 GOP lawmakers voting against the bill.

Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) voted against the bill because of concerns about the debt, while the rest of the GOP “no” votes came from lawmakers in high-tax states concerned that the bill’s $10,000 cap on the state and local tax deduction will hurt their constituents.



Tags ANWR Donald Trump GOP tax plan Individual mandate Nancy Pelosi ObamaCare Paul Ryan Tax reform Walter Jones
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