House gives final approval to tax bill, delivering victory to Trump

Washington DC, Dec 20, 2017 – The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives gave final approval on Wednesday to the biggest overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 30 years, sending a sweeping $1.5 trillion tax bill to President Donald Trump for his signature.

In sealing Trump’s first major legislative victory since he took office in January, Republicans steamrolled opposition from Democrats to pass a bill that slashes taxes for corporations and the wealthy while giving mixed, temporary tax relief to middle-class Americans.

The House approved the measure by 224-201, passing it for the second time in two days after a procedural foul-up forced another vote on Wednesday. The Republican-led Senate had passed it 51-48 in the early hours of Wednesday.

“We are making America great again,” Trump said, echoing his campaign slogan at a White House celebration with Republican lawmakers. “Ultimately what does it mean? It means jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Trump, who emphasized a tax cut for middle-class Americans during his 2016 campaign, said at an earlier Cabinet meeting that lowering the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent was “probably the biggest factor in this plan.”

It was uncertain when the bill would be signed. White House economic adviser Gary Cohn said the timing depended on whether automatic spending cuts triggered by the legislation could be waived.

The administration expects the waiver to be included in a spending resolution Congress will pass later this week, a White House official told reporters. Cohn told Fox News Channel on Wednesday night that Trump could sign the bill as soon as Friday if the resolution was passed by then.

“If not, most likely we’ll sign it in the first week of the new year,” Cohn said.

BUSINESS FRIENDLY

In addition to cutting the U.S. corporate income tax rate, the debt-financed legislation gives other business owners a new 20 percent deduction on business income and reshapes how the government taxes multinational corporations along the lines that the country’s largest businesses have recommended for years.

Wall Street’s main indexes were little changed on Wednesday, taking a breather after a month-long rally ahead of the long-anticipated tax vote. The S&P 500 has climbed about 4.5 percent since mid-November, led by a rally in sectors such as transport, banks and others that are expected to benefit the most from lower taxes.

Under the bill, millions of Americans would stop itemizing deductions, putting tax breaks that incentivize home ownership and charitable donations out of their reach, but also making tax returns somewhat simpler and shorter.

The bill keeps the existing number of tax brackets but adjusts many of the rates and income levels for each one. The top tax rate for high earners is reduced. The estate tax on inheritances is changed so far fewer people will pay.

Once signed, taxpayers likely would see the first changes to their paycheck tax withholdings in February. Most households will not see the full effect of the tax plan on their income until they file their 2018 taxes in early 2019.

In two provisions added to secure needed Republican votes, the legislation also allows oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and removes a tax penalty under the Obamacare health law for Americans who do not obtain health insurance.

“We have essentially repealed Obamacare and we’ll come up with something that will be much better,” Trump said.

Democrats were united in opposition to the tax legislation, calling it a giveaway to the wealthy that will widen the income gap between rich and poor, while adding $1.5 trillion over the next decade to the $20 trillion national debt. Trump promised during the campaign that he would eliminate the national debt.


‘PILLAGING’

“Today the Republicans take their victory lap for successfully pillaging the American middle class to benefit the powerful and the privileged,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said.

Opinion polls show the tax bill is unpopular with the public and Democrats promised to make Republicans pay for their vote during next year’s congressional elections, when all 435 House seats and 34 of the 100 Senate seats will be up for grabs.

“Republicans will rue the day they passed this bill,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told reporters. “We are going to continue hammering away about why this bill is so unpopular.”

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan defended the bill, saying support would grow for after it passes and Americans felt relief. “I think minds are going to change,” Ryan said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” television program. – Reuters

House to vote again on tax bill; Trump on verge of win

Washington DC, Dec 20, 2017 – The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday was expected to give final approval to a sweeping tax bill and send it to President Donald Trump to sign into law, sealing his first major legislative victory in office.

In the largest overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 30 years, Republicans in mere weeks steamrolled over the opposition of Democrats to slash taxes for corporations and the wealthy, while offering mixed, temporary tax relief to working American individuals and families.

The Senate approved the bill in the wee hours of Wednesday morning on a 51-48 vote, but had to send it back to the House, which had passed it on Tuesday, for another vote due to a procedural foul-up that embarrassed Republicans, but was not expected to change the outcome. The vote was expected to take place before noon in the House on Wednesday.

The sprawling, debt-financed legislation cuts the U.S. corporate income tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, gives other business owners a new 20 percent deduction on business income and reshapes how the government taxes multinational corporations along the lines the country’s largest businesses have recommended for years.

Millions of Americans would stop itemizing deductions under the bill, putting tax breaks that incentivize home ownership and charitable donations out of their reach, but also making tax returns somewhat simpler and shorter.

It keeps the present number of tax brackets, but adjusts many, though not all, of the rates and income levels for each one. The top tax rate for high earners is reduced. The estate tax on inheritances is changed so far fewer people will pay.

In two provisions added on to secure needed Republican votes, it also repeals part of the Obamacare health system and allows oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Democrats have railed against the legislation as a giveaway to the wealthy and the business community that will widen the income gap between rich and poor, while adding $1.5 trillion over the next decade to the $20 trillion national debt, which Trump promised in 2016 he would eliminate as president.

Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen said the bill “will harm millions of middle-class families … It contains huge, permanent giveaways for big banks and corporations, and asks our children, millions of working Americans and senior citizens, and future generations to pay the price.”

A few Republicans, whose party was once defined by its fiscal hawkishness, have protested the deficit-spending encompassed in the bill. But most of them have voted for it anyway, saying it would help businesses and individuals, while boosting an already expanding economy they see as not growing fast enough.

“We’ve had two quarters in a row of 3 percent growth. The stock market is up. Optimism is high. Coupled with this tax reform, America is ready to start performing as it should have for a number of years,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell after the chamber’s vote.

Despite Trump administration promises that the tax overhaul would focus on the middle class and not cut taxes for the rich, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, a think tank in Washington, estimated middle-income households would see an average tax cut of $900 next year under the bill, while the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans would see an average cut of $51,000.

The prospect of a Republican victory was tinged with embarrassment. House lawmakers initially voted 227-203, largely along party lines, to approve the bill on Tuesday afternoon.

The measure went to the Senate, where the parliamentarian ruled three minor provisions in violation of an arcane Senate rule. To proceed, the Senate deleted the three provisions and then approved the bill.

Because the House and Senate must approve the same legislation before Trump can sign it into law, the Senate’s late Tuesday vote only ping-ponged the bill back to the House.

The measure was expected to pass again in a vote by midday.

In an overnight post on Twitter Trump said he would hold a news conference at 1 p.m. EST if the House approves it.

Democrats pounced on the mistake as evidence of the hurried, often secretive process used by Republicans in developing the bill. Ignoring Democrats and much of their own rank-and-file, Republican congressional leaders and White House officials drafted the bill behind closed doors, unveiling it on Sept. 27.

No public hearings were held and numerous narrow amendments favored by lobbyists were added late in the process, tilting the package more toward businesses and the wealthy.

“When future generations look back at the short and messy history of the Republican tax bill, its most enduring lesson will be what it has taught us about how not to legislate,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on the Senate floor.

“After only a few months of frantic backroom negotiations by only one party, we are left with a product as sloppy and as partisan as the process used to draft it … What a disgrace.”- Reuters