House Republicans vote to send massive tax overhaul to Trump's desk

  • The House overcomes a final procedural hurdle, voting to pass a Republican tax overhaul and sending it to the president's desk.
  • The vote was necessary after a procedural problem arose late Tuesday with the Senate's version.
  • The Senate raced to fix the bill Tuesday afternoon and passed it in the wee hours of Wednesday.

The House overcame a final hurdle by voting Wednesday to approve a sweeping overhaul of the nation's tax code, sending the legislation to President Donald Trump's desk for signature.

The plan, expected to become law for next year, would significantly remake the U.S. tax code for the first time in decades. The bill would slash tax rates for businesses while temporarily trimming the tax burden on most, but not all, individuals.

For the second time in two days, House Republicans cheered as they secured enough support to approve their promised tax code revision. The chamber passed the legislation by a 224-201 margin, with 12 Republicans bucking their party and voting against it.

"Today, Congress approved a once-in-a-generation tax reform bill. This is the end of a long journey to deliver major tax relief to the American people," House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement Wednesday.

The hastily arranged vote was necessary after the Senate parliamentarian ruled Tuesday afternoon that portions of the bill that had been passed by the House earlier in the day did not conform to Senate rules that govern budgetary votes.

 President Donald Trump meets with House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Zach Gibson | Getty Images

Senate Republicans later amended the bill, stripping it of two provisions related to education funding, which the parliamentarian had identified as violating the Byrd rule. The rule limits the type of legislation that can be passed under Senate budgetary reconciliation rules.

By passing the tax reform bill in a reconciliation period, the GOP-controlled Senate was allowed to adopt the bill with just a simple majority, and not the 60 votes typically needed to advance a Senate bill to the floor for a vote. After tweaking the language in the bill, the Senate passed it in the wee hours of Wednesday, by a party-line 51-48 vote. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is in his home state of Arizona fighting brain cancer.

The tax bill represents the signature legislative achievement of Trump's first year in office, although it was unclear Wednesday precisely when the president planned to sign the legislation into law. The House and Senate are scheduled to recess for Christmas later this week.

"I promised the American people a big, beautiful tax cut for Christmas. With final passage of this legislation, that is exactly what they are getting," Trump said in a statement, saying that the legislation pours "rocket fuel" into the U.S. economy.

The GOP contends that the more than $1.4 trillion in tax cuts contained in the bill will spark business investment, hiring and wage growth. Democrats call the Republican proposal a giveaway to corporations at the expense of the middle class, expressing concerns about the $1 trillion or more it is projected to add to federal budget deficits over a decade.

"There are only two places where America is popping champagne: the White House and the corporate boardrooms, including Trump Tower. Otherwise, Americans have a lot to regret," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters following the House vote.

Republican leaders in both chambers had to navigate party fractures to push the tax plan through Congress. On the House side, curbs on state and local tax deductions threatened to trip up the legislation. Twelve GOP House members from high-tax states that typically lean Democratic voted against the legislation in Tuesday and Wednesday's votes because they feared some constituents would see tax increases as they lost deductions.

On the Senate side, GOP leaders managed to win over all of the Republicans present for Wednesday's vote after overcoming concerns including budget deficits and tax relief for parents and so-called pass-through business owners.

Trump, who has eviscerated Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for that chamber's failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, congratulated the Kentucky Republican in a Wednesday tweet. McConnell did "a fantastic job both strategically & politically," the president said.

"I could have not asked for a better or more talented partner. Our team will go onto many more VICTORIES!" Trump added.

Republicans are scrambling to accomplish their key legislative goal by the end of the year and notch an achievement to promote ahead of next year's midterm elections. Democrats have seized on dismal public opinion polling on the plan and the fact that most individual tax cuts would expire under it while a massive corporate tax decrease would be permanent.

Speaking after the Senate vote Wednesday morning, McConnell called passing the bill an "important accomplishment" that taxpayers will "value and appreciate."

"If we can't sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work," he told reporters.