House Passes Tax Bill, as Does Senate Panel
WASHINGTON — With 227 Republican votes, the House passed the most sweeping tax overhaul in three decades on Thursday, taking a significant leap forward as lawmakers seek to enact $1.5 trillion in tax cuts for businesses and individuals and deliver the first major legislative achievement of President Trump’s tenure.
The swift approval came two weeks after the bill was unveiled, without a single hearing on the 400-plus-page legislation and over the objections of Democrats and 13 Republicans. The focus now shifts to the Senate, where Republicans are quickly moving ahead with their own tax overhaul, which differs in substantial ways from the House bill.
After four days of debate, members of the Senate Finance Committee voted 14 to 12 along party lines to approve their version of the tax package late Thursday night. The approval helps clear the way for the full Senate to consider the bill after Thanksgiving, although it remains to be seen whether it has the support to pass the chamber.
“We’ve taken a big step today, but of course there are many more steps ahead,” Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah and the chairman of the Finance Committee, said after the vote.
Several Senate Republicans have expressed concerns about the legislative effort, and if Democrats are unified in opposition, Senate leaders can afford only two Republican defections in order to win passage through the narrowly divided chamber. In a blow to Senate Republicans, an analysis of their plan released Thursday projected the bill would actually raise taxes on low-income Americans within a few years.Continue reading the main story
Republican lawmakers must also find a way to bridge the big differences between the two bills, a hurdle given the varied priorities of lawmakers in the two houses. For instance, the Senate bill makes the individual income tax cuts temporary and delays implementation of the corporate tax cut by one year. It also includes the repeal of an Affordable Care Act provision requiring that most people have health insurance or pay a penalty.
“We’ve got a long road ahead of us,” Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin said after the 227-to-205 vote in the House. “This is a very, very big milestone in that long road.”
The speed with which the House passed a significant rewrite of the United States tax code stunned many in Washington, who have watched previous legislative efforts by Congress succumb to gridlock.
“It’s a combination of shrewd legislative maneuvering and political necessity,” said Ken Spain, a former official with the National Republican Congressional Committee who now lobbies on tax issues. “The result is landmark legislation moving at breakneck speed. It’s a monumental accomplishment.”
Republicans are under intense pressure to get legislation to Mr. Trump’s desk by Christmas, especially after failing in their attempt to dismantle the Affordable Care Act this year. Lawmakers also want to push the bill through quickly to avoid giving lobbyists and Democrats time to mobilize, a strategy that seemed to be validated with the House approval, which came with little drama or consternation. The political uncertainty surrounding the Dec. 12 Alabama Senate race, which could result in Republicans losing a seat or gaining an uncertain ally, is also a factor in the swift pace.
Republicans cannot afford a replay of their health care catastrophe, during which the House managed in May to pass a repeal bill but the Senate could never follow suit. After the House approved its repeal bill, Mr. Trump hosted Republican lawmakers at the White House for a Rose Garden celebration. The exuberance was more contained on Thursday as the Senate continued its work, with Mr. Trump visiting the Capitol to address House Republicans before the vote and sending congratulations via Twitter afterward.