Move allows Republicans to begin ‘once-in-a-generation’ attempt to overhaul US tax code, a plan criticized by Democrats as ‘Robin Hood in reverse’

The Senate has approved a multitrillion-dollar budget that Donald Trump has called a “first step towards massive tax cuts”, a largely symbolic move that sets the stage for Republicans to rewrite the US tax code without a single Democratic vote.

The Senate on Thursday voted 51-49 to pass the budget resolution, a blueprint of trillions of dollars in federal spending over the next decade. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky was the lone Republican to oppose the blueprint, objecting to the spending levels provided in the proposal.

Passage of the resolution keeps Republicans on track to pass tax reform as early as this year, though many hurdles remain. They are still in the process of drafting their tax plan and they have not accounted for where the cuts will come from.

Despite controlling both chambers of Congress and the White House, Republicans have so far been unable to produce a major legislative achievement. After repeatedly failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act this year, GOP lawmakers are under mounting pressure from conservative voters and donors to deliver on tax reform, a major campaign promise.

The non-binding resolution agreed to on Thursday night lays out Congress’s spending priorities for the 2018 fiscal year, which began on 1 October. But most importantly for GOP priorities, the measure unlocks a special parliamentary procedure that will allow Republicans to cut $1.5tn in taxes with just 50 votes – as opposed to 60 – in the Senate, where they hold a two-seat majority.

Republicans have sold the plan as a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to overhaul an outdated tax system while Democrats have called it “ Robin Hood in reverse”.

Trump applauded the Senate vote.

“The Budget passed late last night, 51 to 49,” he wrote on Friday morning. “We got ZERO Democrat votes with only Rand Paul (he will vote for Tax Cuts) voting against … This now allows for the passage of large scale Tax Cuts (and Reform), which will be the biggest in the history of our country!”

In a statement, a White House spokesperson said: “This resolution creates a pathway to unleash the potential of the American economy through tax reform and tax cuts, simplifying the overcomplicated tax code, providing financial relief for families across the country, and making American businesses globally competitive.

“President Trump looks forward to final enactment of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget resolution so we can bring jobs back to our country.”

In a floor speech on Thursday, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, urged his caucus to support the budget, which he said was “critical to getting tax reform done”.

“Tax reform is all about getting America going again and growing again. It aims to take more money out of Washington’s pockets and put more money in middle-class pockets,” McConnell said. “And it represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to replace a failing tax code that holds Americans back with one that works for them.”

This week, McConnell said the goal was to overhaul the tax code, a Republican priority, by the end of the year. But he also noted that it had taken President Obama more than one year in office to deliver on the Affordable Care Act, his signature domestic achievement, which he signed into law in March 2010.

Lindsey Graham, a conservative senator from South Carolina, called it the “most important vote we’re going to cast in 2017”, and warned of dire consequences for the Republican party if tax reform foundered.

“If we fail, that’s the end of the party’s ability to grow,” he said in a floor speech. “And all those who worked to get us here are going to be disappointed.”

The Democrats have said the tax cuts would largely help the wealthiest Americans and have disputed the White House’s claim that corporate tax cuts would raise wages for the middle class.

Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said the Republican tax plan “entirely divorced from the real problems in our economy and our society”.

“Our economy suffers from massive inequality – which is growing – a concentration of wealth at the very apex of our country’s elite,” Schumer said. “The rich are doing well in America. God bless them, I’m glad they are. And American corporations are recording record high profits – just look at the stock market, which reflects that. God bless them too, we hope they do well. But middle-class incomes have not risen with the rise in corporate profits or record levels of wealth concentrated among the wealthiest families.”

The final vote followed a lengthy ritual known as “vote-a-rama” in which senators can offer endless series of amendments, often intended to force members of the opposite party to vote on politically difficult legislation.

 

Source : https://www.theguardian.com