House passes massive tax package; Senate to vote next

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., walks to the House floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. Republicans are ready to ram a $1.5 trillion tax package through Congress, giving President Donald Trump the legislative win he desperately wants. | Associated Press photo by Susan Walsh, St. George News

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans pushed the most sweeping rewrite of the nation’s tax laws in more than three decades through the House Tuesday. House Speaker Paul Ryan dismissed criticism of the widely unpopular package and insisted “results are what’s going to make this popular.”

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., left, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., leave a closed-door Republican Conference meeting as Congress prepares to vote on the biggest reshaping of the U.S. tax code in three decades, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. | Associated Press photo by J. Scott Applewhite, St. George News

The vote, largely along party lines, was 227-203 and capped a GOP sprint to deliver a major legislative accomplishment to President Donald Trump after a year of congressional stumbles and non-starters.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said the Senate would vote Tuesday evening, sending the legislation to Trump for his signature.

The massive $1.5 trillion package would touch every American taxpayer and every corner of the U.S. economy, providing steep tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy, and more modest tax cuts for middle- and low-income families. It would push the national debt ever higher.

The standard deduction used by most families would be nearly doubled, to $24,000 for a married couple, while those who itemize would lose some deductions.

“We’re delivering a tax code that provides more jobs, fairer taxes and bigger paychecks to Americans across the country,” said Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, Republican chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. “Our local job creators will see the lowest rates in modern history so they can invest more in their workers and in their future.”

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, also issued a statement on the tax bill’s passing, noting that it is “the largest tax overhaul since 1986.”

Democrats called the bill a giveaway to corporations and the wealthy, providing little if any tax help to the less-than-well-to-do and no likelihood that business owners will use their gains to hire more workers or raise wages.

And the Republicans’ contention that the bill will make taxes so simple that millions can file “on a postcard” — an idea repeated often by the president — was simply mocked.

“What happened to the postcard? We’re going to have to carry around a billboard for tax simplification,” said Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, steward of the GOP tax bill, smiles he as he arrives for a closed-door meeting as the Republican majority in Congress prepares to vote on the biggest reshaping of the U.S. tax code in three decades, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. | Associated Press photo by J. Scott Applewhite, St. George News

Tax cuts for corporations would be permanent while the cuts for individuals would expire in 2026 in order to comply with Senate budget rules. The tax cuts would take effect in January. Workers would start to see changes in the amount of taxes withheld from their paychecks in February.

During debate, decorum on the House floor was fleeting as two New Yorkers — a Democrat and a Republican — voiced their opinions on the bill. Rep. Joe Crowley, D-New York, yelled, “Hell no!” in opposition to the bill. Rep. Tom Reed, R-New York, replied, “Hell yes!” The proceedings were interrupted several times by protesters shouting from the gallery.

The bill is unpopular among the public, and Democrats plan to campaign against it in next year’s congressional elections. Senate Democrats posted poll numbers on the bill on a video screen at their Tuesday luncheon.

“This bill will come back to haunt them, as Frankenstein did,” said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

Not so, said Ryan, who has worked for years on tax overhaul.

“When we get this done, when people see their withholding improving, when they see jobs occurring, when they see bigger paychecks, a fairer tax system, a simpler tax code, that’s what’s going to produce the results,” said Ryan, R-Wisconsin.

The bill would slash the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. The top tax rate for individuals would be lowered from 39.6 percent to 37 percent.

It scales back a popular deduction for state and local taxes, repeals a key tenet of Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and allows drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Despite GOP talk of spending discipline, it is projected to add $1.46 trillion to the nation’s debt over a decade. GOP lawmakers say they expect a future Congress to continue the tax cuts so they won’t expire. If achieved, that would drive up deficits even further.

Republicans acknowledged they still have to convince many Americans of the benefits of their bill. Many voters in surveys see the legislation as a boost to the wealthy, such as Trump and his family, and only a minor gain for the middle class.

I don’t think we’ve done a good job messaging,” said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon. “I don’t think we’ve gotten out there with specifics, and the final bill has only come together in the last week or so. Now, you’re able to look at the final product.”

The $1,000-per-child tax credit doubles to $2,000, with up to $1,400 available in IRS refunds for families who owe little or no taxes. Parents would have to provide children’s Social Security numbers to receive the child credit, a measure intended to deny the credit to people who are in the U.S. illegally.

The legislation also repeals an important part of the health care law — the requirement that all Americans carry health insurance or face a penalty — as the GOP looks to unravel a law it failed to repeal and replace this past summer.

The bill would initially provide tax cuts for Americans of all incomes. But if the tax cuts for individuals expire, most Americans — those making less than $75,000 — would see tax increases in 2027, according to congressional estimates.

Disgruntled Republican lawmakers from high-tax New York, New Jersey and California receded into the background as the tax train rolled. They oppose the new $10,000 cap on the deduction that millions use in connection with state and local income, property and sales taxes. The cap remains in the final bill.

The deduction is especially vital to residents of high-tax states.

Several defectors reaffirmed their “No” votes for the final bill on Tuesday. Rep. Peter King conveyed what people in his Long Island, New York, district were telling him about the tax bill: “Nothing good, especially from Republicans. … It’s certainly unpopular in my district,” he said.

Written by STEPHEN OHLEMACHER and MARCY GORDON for the Associated Press.

Kevin Freking and Alan Fram also contributed to this report.

Rep. Chris Stewart’s statement added by St. George News

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

AP content: Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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6 Comments

  • jaybird December 20, 2017 at 9:57 am

    The scraps off the wealthys table people in Utah get. Especially those who think the child tax credit will help when the $4k per person personal exemptions are erased. So, a family of 4 kids 2 adults, while getting a double standard deduction of $24k, lose $25k in personal exemptions. What a deal!

    • hiker75 December 20, 2017 at 11:26 am

      I do not think Congress cares. The tax changes are all about the wealthy donors. Hey, let’s vote for the same people next time?!?!?!

  • mctrialsguy December 20, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    WE need tax reform! It’s too bad none of the democratic predecessors had the _ _ _ _ to do it. No one wants to muddy the waters, just ride the wave. That you PRESIDENT TRUMP for muddying the waters, and we will see water settles and what floats to the top and gets scraped off. Finally, someone is doing something and is draining the liberal and political swamp of corruption! Californians pay 5 times what Utahans pay as a whole. The liberal politicians in California skim off all of the funds for their own projects and agendas.

  • Waid December 20, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    As usual, Repugnican congress-people have created a complete legislative failure with this tax “reform” (that’s a hoot!) bill — according to their own promises:

    Help the middle and lower economic classes – no, only if you have many children (like Utah) will you see any significant reduction in taxes. Over time that will go away, too. Meanwhile Trump and the other 1 percenters reap huge tax reductions;

    File your taxes on a postcard — no, this bill significantly increases the complexity of the tax code;

    Encourage investment in America and bring back jobs — no, this bill encourages moving more jobs off-shore because it eliminates the requirement for U.S. businesses to pay income taxes on profits earned overseas;

    Deficit reduction — even conservative economists admit that huge increases in the deficit will occur as a result of this bill, as it will not significantly increase economic growth.

    BTW Trumpers — Dems attempted to suggest improvements to this awful bill, but Repugnicans would have none of that. Everything was done hurriedly by Repugnicans behind closed doors with zero input allowed by Democrats. The Repugnicans are already attempting to blame Dems for the fact that this is badly flawed legislation. No doubt their conservative propaganda machine led by Faux News will succeed in that regard. Sad.

    • comments December 20, 2017 at 1:19 pm

      A lot of these idiot Trumpers forget so readily that the last time the repub party was in charge they brought the world economy into the worst depression since the 1930s. IDIOTS

  • Waid December 20, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    Why are these scumbags smiling? Because they’ve made their wealthy campaign contributors very happy!

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