Archive for Friday, December 1, 2017

Senate passes GOP tax bill after flurry of final deals

Telling reporters "we have the votes," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the chamber after a closed-door meeting with Republican lawmakers to advance the stalled GOP overhaul of the tax code, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Telling reporters "we have the votes," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the chamber after a closed-door meeting with Republican lawmakers to advance the stalled GOP overhaul of the tax code, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

December 1, 2017, 11:43 a.m. Updated December 2, 2017, 7:54 a.m.

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— Republicans pushed a nearly $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.

"Big bills are rarely popular. You remember how unpopular 'Obamacare' was when it passed?" Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in an interview, shrugging off polls showing scant public enthusiasm for the measure. He said the legislation would prove to be "just what the country needs to get growing again."

Trump hailed the bill's passage on Twitter, thanking McConnell and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "Look forward to signing a final bill before Christmas!" the president wrote.

Presiding over the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence announced the 51-49 vote to applause from Republicans. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., was the only lawmaker to cross party lines, joining the Democrats in opposition. The measure focuses its tax reductions on businesses and higher-earning individuals, gives more modest breaks to others and offers the boldest rewrite of the nation's tax system since 1986.

Republicans touted the package as one that would benefit people of all incomes and ignite the economy. Even an official projection of a $1 trillion, 10-year flood of deeper budget deficits couldn't dissuade GOP senators from rallying behind the bill.

"Obviously I'm kind of a dinosaur on the fiscal issues," said Corker, who battled to keep the bill from worsening the government's accumulated $20 trillion in IOUs.

The Republican-led House approved a similar bill last month in what has been a stunningly swift trip through Congress for complex legislation that impacts the breadth of American society. The two chambers will now try crafting a final compromise to send Trump.

After spending the year's first nine months futilely trying to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law, GOP leaders were determined to move the measure rapidly before opposition Democrats and lobbying groups could blow it up. The party views passage as crucial to retaining its House and Senate majorities in next year's elections.

Democrats derided the bill as a GOP gift to its wealthy and business backers at the expense of lower-earning people. They contrasted the bill's permanent reduction in corporate income tax rates from 35 percent to 20 percent to smaller individual tax breaks that would end in 2026.

Congress' nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation has said the bill's reductions for many families would be modest and said by 2027, families earning under $75,000 would on average face higher, not lower, taxes.

The bill is "removed from the reality of what the American people need," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. He criticized Republicans for releasing a revised, 479-page bill that no one can absorb shortly before the final vote, saying, "The Senate is descending to a new low of chicanery."

"You really don't read this kind of legislation," Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., told home-state reporters, asked why the Senate was approving a bill some senators hadn't read. He said lawmakers needed to study it and get feedback from affected groups.

Democrats took to the Senate floor and social media to mock one page that included changes scrawled in barely legible handwriting. Later, they won enough GOP support to kill a provision by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., that would have bestowed a tax break on conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan.

The bill hit rough waters after the Joint Taxation panel concluded it would worsen federal shortfalls by $1 trillion over a decade, even when factoring in economic growth that lower taxes would stimulate. Trump administration officials and many Republicans have insisted the bill would pay for itself by stimulating the economy. But the sour projections stiffened resistance from some deficit-averse Republicans.

But after bargaining that stretched into Friday, GOP leaders nailed down the support they needed in a chamber they control 52-48. Facing unyielding Democratic opposition, Republicans could lose no more than two GOP senators and prevail with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence, but ended up not needing it.

Leaders' changes included helping millions of companies whose owners pay individual, not corporate, taxes on their profits by allowing deductions of 23 percent, up from 17.4 percent. That helped win over Wisconsin's Johnson and Steve Daines of Montana.

People would be allowed to deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes, a demand of Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. That matched a House provision that chamber's leaders included to keep some GOP votes from high-tax states like New York, New Jersey and California.

The changes added nearly $300 billion to the tax bill's costs. To pay for that, leaders reduced the number of high-earners who must pay the alternative minimum tax, rather than completely erasing it. They also increased a one-time tax on profits U.S.-based corporations are holding overseas and would require firms to keep paying the business version of the alternative minimum tax.

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. He said he'd received commitments from party leaders and the administration "to work with me" to restore protections, dismantled by Trump, for young immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children. That seemed short of a pledge to actually revive the safeguards.

The Senate bill would drop the highest personal income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 38.5 percent. The estate tax levied on a few thousand of the nation's largest inheritances would be narrowed to affect even fewer.

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

The bill would abolish the "Obamacare" requirement that most people buy health coverage or face tax penalties. Industry experts say that would weaken the law by easing pressure on healthier people to buy coverage, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said the move would push premiums higher and leave 13 million additional people uninsured.

Drilling would be allowed in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Another provision, knocked out because it violated Senate budget rules, would have explicitly let parents buy tax-advantaged 529 college savings accounts for fetuses, a step they can already take but which anti-abortion forces wanted to inscribe into law. There were also breaks for the wine, beer and spirits industries, Alaska Natives and aircraft management firms.

Comments

Daniel Kennamore 1 week, 6 days ago

The House version of this bill only passed because the California and New York GOP reps were told the tax hike on their states via removing the local tax deductions would be removed in the Senate version.

They now have a choice to make, pass this disaster of a bill despite that tax hike and make the blue wave in 2018 include them getting shown the door...or actually represent their constituencies.

Richard Quinlan 1 week, 5 days ago

Fabulous , 1.4 trillion in deficit , increased tax for low income and retired seniors , then when the crap hits the fan they plan to go after Medicare and Soc Sec.

2018 elections will be brutal for these losers

Bob Summers 1 week, 5 days ago

How is this bill going to get the millions and millions of people with no skin in the game to pay their fair share?

Bob Summers 1 week, 5 days ago

What good are people that cannot pay their fair share? What gives people with no skin in the game the right to feed off of productive people?

God?

Cille King 1 week, 5 days ago

Bob Summers wants all those who can't pay taxes to ??? Children, elderly, handicapped, veterans?

Ken Lassman 1 week, 5 days ago

Leave the country, preferably, I guess. Let them back in when they can produce a job offer letter that proves they'll pull their weight. But wait! Won't Donald Trump and a whole host of uber-rich have to go too since they sometimes manage to avoid any taxes? And until the repeal of the Brownback tax policies, many folks set up LLCs and stopped paying state taxes and instead of creating new jobs with their saved money, they lined their nests while state coffers emptied out. What about them? Oh, well.....

MerriAnnie Smith 1 week, 4 days ago

Bob wants their blood. It's all they have left. It's anemic and tired from poverty, but by God, Bob wants to see them have to give it over to the wealthy.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 week, 4 days ago

No, Bob wants them begging in the streets, so he can make fun of them. But Bob isn't that rich, and he is in for a big surprise.

Greg Cooper 1 week, 5 days ago

OK, Bob. OK. This bill reduces the tax percentage everyone pays, but it also ends that percentage in a specified number of years, EXCEPT for businesses. Now, the net result is a tax decrease for the businesses and well-off owners, in perpetuity, but raiseing taxes on individuals in just a few years. Now, skin in the game, I assume, is paying your fair share of taxes, so, the ones with skin in the game are those least able to afford taxes in the first place. And those who build homes on a golf course, and stuff like that that have nothing to do with those who struggle to feed themselves and get adequate medical care, so skin in the game literally means that the lower income, non-business-owners will be skinned by this bill. Is that what you mean?

MerriAnnie Smith 1 week, 4 days ago

Actually, Greg, I understand that it does NOT reduce the tax rates of EVERYONE. There are some poor who will immediately pay higher taxes.

Greg Cooper 1 week, 4 days ago

Bob would never have gone for that :0) Thought I'd stick with simple concepts.

Mark Jakubauskas 1 week, 5 days ago

Bob,

You're right. The poor, the disabled, the ill... all are freeloaders. Useless drags on productive society. Perhaps we should set up regional stations where such people can be quietly euthanized, saving tax dollars and reducing that load upon the economy.

Randall Allen 1 week, 4 days ago

Wow. That's just the way the Nazis felt. I guess the GOP is drifting a little to the right. They called them feeders---is that what you call children and the elderly Bob?

Steve Hicks 1 week, 5 days ago

I can remember when conservatives' strongest principle was to DECREASE the federal deficit.

I'll leave it to you: is today's governing faction actually conservative...or (fake) "conservatives" ?

Kobach is their poster-boy. After he skinned Kansas' brain-dead "small-government conservative" legislators for increased power and more money for his office, he campaigned on the slogan "A Consistent Conservative."

Maybe a bigger fish of his faction had already claimed the slogan "A Consistent Liar."

Dave Lee 1 week, 5 days ago

hey. it worked so great for kansas. lets try this tax experiment on the entire USA. what could possibly go wrong..

Clara Westphal 1 week, 5 days ago

This proves that Kansas senators and representatives do not know what is going on in the state of Kansas. They are far removed from the people of this state. All of them should know this same plan has nearly bankrupt Kansas. Shame on them for voting for this bill.

Ken Lassman 1 week, 5 days ago

Even Laffer says that tax rates must be higher than they currently are in order to create an economic bounce that is sustainable https://www.thebalance.com/donald-trump-economic-plan-3994106 We are setting up a boom-bust cycle that will head us back into a recession, fueled perhaps by gutting safeguards put in place after our most recent Great Recession, perhaps by stimulating fossil fuel production that will once again collapse market prices, perhaps by creating historic deficits that will force tax increases at the exact wrong time of the economic cycle: the choices are many. One thing is for sure--the rich will get richer, the poor will get poorer, and our political legacy will be in shambles due to the One Party/pass it without examining it strategy used to shove this legislation through. The reconciliation process between the House and Senate versions is not how our legislative process is supposed to work to craft legislation.

Both of our Senators should be ashamed of what they have just done. Our House members share the blame. This is power politics at its ugliest. This is not the beginning of such ugly political strong-arming, but it certainly is a strengthening of it and it increases our velocity down the slippery slope to a permanently divided, two-tiered society more characteristic of those found in third world totalitarian governments. Remember to vote for the America you want to live in come 2018.

Harlan Hobbs 1 week, 5 days ago

I will thank all of you liberals in advance for returning your future tax cuts back to the Federal Treasury for continued wasteful spending. Kind of an odd way to show your patriotism, but whatever works for you is fine.

You could possibly even designate your cuts to be used for the Legal Defense Funds of the prominent Democrats in Congress who are nothing but sex perverts.

Will be interesting to see all the names when the 600 or so settlements become a part of the public record.

Make America great again.

Greg Cooper 1 week, 5 days ago

Gee, Harlan, it might be instructive for you to Google the just-passed tax bill to see what wasteful spending is reserved for the rich and powerful. It ain't the poor.

If you want to rail against something that makes a difference, besides the reprehensible sexual exploits of public figures (i.e., Democrats, in your mind), maybe you should look at the tax policy itself, the one that your party just endorsed, and think again about waste, about humanity, about anything that has the best interests of the entire nation at its heart. That has nothing to do with this tax bill.

Richard Neuschafer 1 week, 4 days ago

Harlan, find a hobby that you are actually good at. This isn't it. You are completely brainwashed by Fox News, Limbaugh, and all of the other propaganda sources. You couldn't be more wrong.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 week, 4 days ago

Harlan, you are in for a big surprise. You'll be so happy because of your tax rate decreases, then when you can't deduct certain items, you'll end up paying the same or more. But that's okay. Maybe the rich will let you lick their boots. There has to be some nutritional value in shoe polish. Need a new hip? Pay for it yourself. All that money you gave to Medicare over the years is going to be gone. But I'm sure you will be a good little Republican and go off kill yourself, before then, so you won't be a burden to society.

Daniel Kennamore 1 week, 4 days ago

Remember when the GOP screamed bloody murder about Obamacare being 'rammed down our throats' despite it being ran through committees for months, weeks of the final bill be scored & passing the senate with a 60 vote majority?

Also, remember when one of the tea party's biggest grievances was the deficit?

Anyone who ever claims 'BUT BOTH PARTIES ARE THE SAME!' again is either the victim of the right's, admittedly prolific and effective, propaganda or is an idiot.

The GOP just sold us out to make rich people richer. They did so in a middle of the night bill with literal hand-scribbled last minute changes using parliamentary tricks to only need 51 votes. A bill that will represent a tax increase for many in the lower & middle class but still cutting taxes for the rich enough to represent a 1.4 TRILLION dollar increase to the deficit.

Four years from now, when the DEMs have control again, I hope they remember that being the party of adults is pointless. I hope they use the exact same tactics Trump supporters are gleefully celebrating right now to shove through the most progressive policies changes ever seen in the Western World, and laugh in the face of all those who cry foul.

It's time for the DEMs to start playing as dirty as the soulless GOP until we have enough reforms in place to prevent the fringe right from ever having meaningful power again.

Calvin Anders 1 week, 3 days ago

Daniel, I do agree with you that in this case, there is an obvious distinction between Democrats and Republicans. The Republicans worked hard here to pass a bill that strips away safety nets, further increases our obscene level of federal debt and lines the pockets of corporate and wealthy interests. And Democrats remained unified in their opposition. So we do have reason to laud the Democratic party for standing up for working class values, in this particular instance. But when Democrats get back into the majority (with the current gerrymandering and campaign spending rules and Democrats seeming to do their level best to alienate their base it may be decades before we see a Democratic majority in Congress) we will see how sincere and motivated they are to reverse tax cuts for the wealthy. I doubt the Democrats will be brave enough to ignore their high dollar donors and step up for the voters. The parties are not the same, but they do both respond to corporate money and usually try to distract their bases with wedge issues while they work to ensure the wealthy enjoy greater wealth and a louder voice in the legislative process.

Brad Avery 1 week, 4 days ago

Senators Moran and Roberts vividly illuminated their lack of concern for the average Kansan by supporting the GOP tax increase bill. Not only does the bill blow a planet sized $1.5 trillion hole in the deficit and raise taxes on the middle class, it is going to trigger $25 billion in automatic cuts in medicare. Thanks, Jerry and Pat. I doubt whether either of you even read the tax bill, since your leadership was making it up as they went along. Your lack of careful consideration will be remembered.
https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/115th-congress-2017-2018/costestimate/hr1hoyerletter.pdf

MerriAnnie Smith 1 week, 4 days ago

I'll laugh if I see Republicans who voted for Trump actually suffering a great loss for their vote. Not just Trump voters, though. ANY Republican, state or federal.

We, in Kansas have already suffered enough at the hands of Republican voters. This state nearly bit the dust and went into bankruptcy.

Federal won't go into bankruptcy. It will simply keep adding to the deficit and China will just own more and more and more of our country.

I wonder, when China stakes its claim to country vis a vis their having bought it by buying up all our federal bonds, what will they do then to the wealthy people who bought our politicians who then turned around and gave them our country?

These are the things that, at 75, I'm thinking I might not live to see completed, but unless Democrats take over Congress and the White House in the next few years, and unless state's voters wise up, it's going to happen.

Along the way many will die unnecessarily with no healthcare insurance and with hospitals closing down because such things as Medicaid expansion not done. Along the way many middle class will continue to fall into poverty. Along the way public schools will be demolished and if you can't afford private schools your children will suffer a lack of education. Along the way colleges will become more and more expensive and your children will not be able to go to college. Along the way business regulations will drop away and you will be at the mercy of whatever a company wants to do in their efforts to make their owners richer. Along the way we will see far more people begging on our streets and they will be the elderly and the mentally ill and the sick. Along the way our air will become more and more un-breathable and our life expectancy will decrease. We will see more babies born dead or in such bad shape they won't survive. This is going back to before the Great Depression when rich men owned the country and they took it down... in a quest for more personal riches.

I watched us climb back out of that depression. At 75, I was born just at the end of WW II. My earliest memories, even my earliest photo of myself, are of living in the Army barracks on Barracks Street in New Orleans. I'm a person who pays attention. I don't always get it down perfectly, but you can bet if you've paid attention for 75 years, you've learned some hard-to-face lessons.

This is my warning to those who worship the wealthy to the point that they think only the wealthy can and WILL save them... may God have mercy on you... and the rest of us.

Steve Hicks 1 week, 4 days ago

MerriAnnie makes a key point about why there are such divided opinions in America, on everything

If you pay attention, you learn a few things from life. Everything you learn along the way will be helpful to you in life.

And if you don't pay attention, you learn none of the wisdom and sense of "right" and "wrong" that would help you sort things out, and make good decisions in life.

But in today's society there are always people eager to fill that intellectual and moral void FOR you: to tell you what you should think and do, and how to make your decisions.

There's no particular reason this basic difference between the aware and the unaware should manifest itself as a specifically political difference. But it's hard to miss that "conservative" media "direct" more than inform people's thinking: and that most people who lack the wisdom and moral integrity life-experience teaches (to anyone who pays attention), tend to invariably parrot "conservative" talking-points as their own "opinons."

Richard Heckler 1 week, 3 days ago

The House and Senate tax bills are very different. They will have to meet to agree on a final version, and vote on it one more time. That process gives us a fantastic opportunity to ramp up public pressure even more.

The GOP wants to use Social Security Funds. Medicare Funds and Medicaid funds to cover the cost of what is known as the monster entitlement for the very wealthy. Stealing funds from the above mentioned will eventually put theses programs into bankruptcy which will then bring on the privatization vultures.

Privatization vultures see giant profits for their unethical and perhaps criminal behavior. For example converting Social Security Insurance into a Wall Street scam creates huge windfalls for the wealthiest investors. We're talking big dollars.

The insurance industries get huge windfalls from converting medicare and medicaid to private corporate accounts.

These outrageous windfalls shrink benefits big time. In fact could very well prevent a worker from claiming his rightfully owned Social Security check at 65 years old because there will NOT be enough money in Social Security accounts. Yes owners will be forced to wait ...... then again the money may never show up. How many are prepared to work at age 67, 72, 79, 84, 91 etc etc etc?

Keep in mind the unethical elected officials will see more money than ever flowing into their special interest campaign cookie jars.

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