WASHINGTON (CN) – The House of Representatives approved the final version of the Republican tax reform package on Wednesday afternoon, fulfilling a Republican promise to complete the tax code rewrite by the end of the year.
The House originally passed the bill on Tuesday afternoon, but procedural rules forced the Senate to remove three minor provisions from the bill late Tuesday night. The Senate eventually passed the revised bill shortly after midnight Wednesday, but the changes forced the House to re-vote on the measure.
The 224-201 vote approved the changes and ended with Republicans celebrating their first major legislative accomplishment of the Trump administration. Republicans are scheduled to celebrate the tax bill’s passage at the White House this afternoon, though President Donald Trump is not expected to sign the bill until “a later date,” according to press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Congress still has to enroll the bill before Trump can sign it, meaning the president might not sign the legislation into law until next week, a senior administration official told reporters Wednesday. However, the administration official was confident Trump would sign the bill before the end of the year.
“By cutting taxes and reforming the broken system, we are now pouring rocket fuel into the engine of our economy,” Trump said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “America is back to winning again, and we’re growing like never before. There is a great spirit of optimism sweeping across our land. Americans can once again rest assured that our brightest days are still to come.”
While Republicans applauded as the bill passed, Democrats took to the House floor before the vote for a series of speeches decrying the bill as unfairly favoring the wealthy at the expense of lower-income people.
“There can be little doubt that the majority party is fixated on cutting taxes for the richest in our country,” House Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said on the House floor Wednesday.
Hours earlier, on a 51-48 party-line vote just after midnight, Senate Republicans approved a $1.5 trillion tax cut whose benefits will flow mainly to corporations and the wealthy.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who had returned home to receive treatment for brain cancer, did not vote.
“I have to say that this is a historic night,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican who chairs the Senate Finance Committee said after the vote.
“The Democrats have said the American people will remember this night. I hope they do, because we passed one of the most important tax breaks in this country’s history.”
The Senate was forced to remove three minor provisions from the bill before the final vote after its parliamentarian found they did not comply with budgetary rules for the special procedure Republicans used to pass the bill without any support from Democrats.
The changes deleted provisions that violated the Byrd rule, including one that allowed people to use tax-advantaged 529 savings accounts for home-schooling expenses.
The Byrd rule limits how legislation can affect the budget when it is passed through reconciliation, the special process Republicans used to prevent Democrats from filibustering the bill.
Republicans tried to waive the rule with a procedural vote, but the motion to waive the rule requires 60 votes to pass, making its failure a foregone conclusion.
Though the changes did nothing to reduce Republican support for the measure, they will force the House to vote again on the bill Wednesday morning before it can go to President Donald Trump for signature. Aside from those cosmetic changes, Republicans rammed the bill through in short order, with no hearings and no input from Democrats.
The tax bill cuts the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent and reduces the rate for most individual tax brackets.
It eliminates most itemized deductions and nearly doubles the standard deduction. Unlike an earlier version of the bill, it allows people to deduct up to $10,000 in state and local taxes.
It includes a more generous Child Tax Credit, bowing to Florida Republican Marco Rubio’s threat to vote against the bill if it did not include an expanded credit.
And it repeals the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, a move that will seriously weaken or cripple President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement.
It also opens up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and drilling.
Republicans claim the bill will cut taxes for most people and increase economic growth, while Democrats say the benefits of the bill are tilted sharply towards the wealthy.
The Tax Policy Center on Monday released an analysis that found 80 percent of people, including 90 percent of the middle class, would pay less in taxes in 2018 under the plan. The report also found that though the average person would see a $1,600 tax cut, people in the top 1 percent of earners would get a $50,000 tax break, with middle-income earners receiving $900.
Democrats say Republicans will end up paying for the tax cuts by slashing social programs such Social Security — a claim bolstered by Trump’s claim that the Republican’s next target will be “welfare.”
Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden said on the Senate floor before the vote: “The American people should know that the far-right architects of this tax plan are going to be coming for your Social Security and Medicare before you take your Christmas tree down. That’s the end game, that’s what Americans need to know is coming next.”
Several protests broke out in the Senate gallery during the vote on final passage, with protesters shouting, “Kill the bill, don’t kill us!” at the senators below.