With 51 of 52 GOP members voting yes, the Senate passed a sweeping tax reform bill Friday, bringing a major Republican dream closer to fruition.
Now senators will need to reconcile their bill with an already-passed House measure that, like the Senate’s, promises an enormous cut in the corporate rate and relief for the middle class. If each chamber passes the reconciled bill, it would go to the desk of President Donald Trump, who wants to sign the legislation by Christmas.
Both bills nearly double the standard deduction for individuals and married couples and increase child tax credits, while eliminating personal exemptions and others. Differences include the number of tax brackets – the Senate version keeps it at seven; the House has four – and the Senate’s ends the Obamacare tax penalty if payers don’t buy insurance.
The path to passage in the Senate was more difficult than in the more-conservative House, as some Republicans were wary of original projections that said the bill would increase the deficit by $1.4 trillion over the next decade – despite the White House’s claim the plan would reduce the deficit by $2 trillion. A new estimate says the amended bill would add about $1 trillion to the deficit.
Final changes to the bill included a roll back of some cuts after six years to offset the debt increases. An earlier plan sought by some senators to automatically trigger increases if the bill doesn’t meet its goals was deemed to violate Senate rules.
Other tweaks that turned some senators include a higher deduction for noncorporate, or “pass-through,” businesses, and $10,000 deduction on local property taxes. Republican Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who was on the fence, said he gave his support to the bill after receiving assurances from the White House and Senate leadership to advance a legislative fix to “enact fair and permanent” protection for illegal immigrants who came into the country when they were young.
The successful vote is a welcome achievement for GOP senators, who were smarting after they failed this summer to pass legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. While there are still steps remaining to get a reconciled bill through Congress, Republicans and Trump’s first major piece of legislation of the year is closer than ever. Another loss could have significant repercussions for GOP lawmakers heading into 2018’s crucial mid-term elections.