WASHINGTON (CN) — The Senate passed a $4 trillion budget framework Thursday night, a key step in the Republican plan to pass a tax package by the end of the year without any votes from Democrats.
The budget resolution, approved by 51-49 vote, is little more than a blueprint for spending levels Congress should reach in considering appropriations bills over the next decade and does not specifically set aside any new money.
The Republican budget calls for $5.1 trillion in cuts over 10 years and projects a budget surplus by 2027, much of it from hypothetical improvements in the economy during that time.
But the major importance of the resolution is its instructions for a procedure known as reconciliation, which will allow Republicans to pass their tax laws without a single Democratic vote.
“Passing this budget is critical to getting tax reform done, so we can strengthen our economy after years of stagnation under the previous administration,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor Thursday morning.
The reconciliation instructions allow the Senate Finance Committee to add up to $1.5 trillion to the deficit with any tax reform package, a departure from a House version that does not allow for additions to the deficit.
House and Senate negotiators will have to work out the differences in a conference committee before the budget resolution can become the vehicle for tax reform in Congress.
Democrats say Republicans will make up that $1.5 trillion with cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, though the budget resolution does not specifically enact such cuts.
“This nasty and backwards budget green-lights cuts to Medicare and Medicaid in order to give a tax break to big corporations and the wealthiest Americans,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement.
“It shifts the burden from the wealthy and puts it squarely on the back of the middle class, and blows a hole in the deficit to boot. I think it will go down in history as one of the worst budgets Congress has ever passed.”
The budget resolution passed after a day full of votes on amendments to it, most of them during a six-hour marathon that ran into Thursday night. Many of the proposed amendments were partisan attempts to force the opposition into an embarrassing vote, such as one from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., that would have committed Republicans to not raising taxes on people making less than $250,000 per year.
Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said that would “inappropriately bind” the Finance Committee as it prepares its official proposal.
“This again is another attempt to do the Finance Committee's work as part of the budget,” Enzi said on the floor during debate on the amendment.
Republicans rejected Heitkamp’s amendment in a 47-51 procedural vote, as they did with other, similar proposals.
The tax proposal the Trump administration and congressional Republicans unveiled in September calls for consolidation of the current seven tax brackets into three brackets, of 12, 25 and 35 percent. That amounts to a 2 percent uptick in the lowest rate and a 4 percent slash to the top bracket.
Though not yet a formal bill, the framework nearly halves the corporate rate to 20 percent, and drops the small business rate to 25 percent.
It calls for doubling the standard deduction, though it eliminates most itemized deductions, which some analysts have said could offset a large portion of the tax relief the larger deduction would provide.
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