Senate grapples with tax cut plan's impact on federal deficit

Republicans pushed a almost $1.5 trillion tax bill through the Senate early Saturday after a burst of eleventh-hour horse trading, as a party starved all year for a major legislative triumph took a giant step toward giving President Donald Trump one of his top priorities by Christmas.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will reconvene at 11 a.m. Friday to start considering amendments before a final vote on the bill later in the day.

Part of what is making it so tricky for the GOP to pass their tax bill is that undecided Republican senators wanted concessions that might upset the overall math of the bill needed to keep it within the constraints of the budget rules under which it is proceeding to a vote with zero Democratic support.

On the individual side of the tax code, the top tax rate paid by the highest-income earners would be cut slightly. Republicans have cast passage of a tax overhaul as a political imperative to ensure they hold their House and Senate majorities in next year's midterm elections.

The legislation still has to be reconciled with the U.S. House of Representatives' version of the bill passed on November 16. Senate leaders both declared the report junk and claimed it vindicates their claim that the tax bill will pay for itself.

Deductions for state and local income taxes, moving expenses and other items would vanish, the standard deduction - used by most Americans - would almost double to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for couples, and the per-child tax credit would grow.

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Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. - who like Corker had been a holdout and has sharply attacked Trump's capabilities as president - voted for the bill.

Those groups said provisions that would prevent federal filers from deducting state and local taxes, and eventual tax hikes on middle-class families if the sunset cuts are not extended would cause property values to drop by 10 percent and eliminate an incentive for homebuyers.

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, called the trigger "a work in progress" Thursday afternoon.

Without the deduction, Collins said, it would be "very problematic for me" to vote for the bill.

"We think we're going to get it done by the end of the year", she said. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., earlier Friday said they would back the bill after securing further tax relief for pass-through businesses. The group describes its mission as reforming the tax code "by reducing the corporate income tax rate to make it more competitive with our nation's major trading partners". Trump administration officials and many Republicans have insisted the bill would pay for itself by stimulating the economy. But his vote probably won't matter: Even without Corker, Republicans appear to have the votes they need to pass the bill anyway.

The apparent momentum for a tax cut in the Senate promises to benefit the wealthy and corporations at the expense of lower-income taxpayers and the government's bottom line.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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