President Donald Trump’s top legislative priority took a major step forward as the Senate narrowly approved a budget vehicle for tax cuts — but sharp divides over an array of non-binding amendments revealed the towering challenge he faces from here.
Senator Rand Paul split from the GOP to vote against the budget resolution, which squeaked by on an all-Republican vote of 51-49 Thursday night and unlocked the Senate’s special procedure to pass a tax bill with only 50 votes. Paul objected to a provision to raise military spending by $43 billion, and also broke with his party by voting with Democrats against an amendment to reduce the state and local tax deduction, which could raise tax bills for some.
“Rather than bicker over raising tax on some people and lowering taxes on other people, we should cut everyone’s taxes,” the Kentucky senator said. He has insisted that no middle-class taxes go up, a high bar for a complex bill to meet.
Amendments that were offered during a so-called vote-a-rama revealed a sharply divided Senate that leaves Republican leaders with few votes to spare in order to claim their first big legislative victory in the Trump administration. Still, GOP senators united to defeat Democratic measures that would have slapped restrictions on the yet-to-be-written bill to prevent higher deficits, block tax cuts for the top 1 percent of earners, and bar any tax hikes on incomes under $250,000.
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Republicans tacked on an amendment to the Senate budget that will enable the House to adopt it without the need for a messy conference committee before the legislating can begin, said a House GOP leadership aide. It could happen as soon as next week.
“In the House, I look forward to swift passage and to working with the president on tax reform, to provide relief to all Americans,” House Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black of Tennessee said in a statement Friday.
The two chambers are poised to take their own separate paths on an actual tax bill, and — if each passes — combining those into one that can clear both houses of Congress will be their greatest challenge.
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told “CBS This Morning” Friday that adoption of the budget resolution in the Senate clears the way for details of the tax plan to be finalized in “a number of days; then we’ll put this bill out.”
Republicans will introduce a fourth tax bracket in their overhaul proposal “so that high-income earners don’t see a rate cut,” Ryan said. Middle class taxpayers will also see benefits from closed loopholes and canceled carve-outs that disproportionately benefit the wealthy, he said.
Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, a retiring Republican who has recently feuded with Trump, voted to advance the budget resolution, which allows a tax bill to raise the deficit by up to $1.5 trillion.
But Corker has said his support for the budget resolution was merely to satisfy Senate rules, and he declared in a statement after the vote that he wants to make sure the tax bill “does not add to the deficit, sets rates that are permanent in nature, and closes a minimum of $4 trillion in loopholes and special interest deductions.” He added that he’d support “reasonable” assumptions about economic growth stemming from tax changes.
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