The Senate voted 51 to 49 to pass its version of the GOP Tax Cuts and Jobs Act early Saturday morning. Many lawmakers only received the text of the massive bill, which has far-reaching implications across multiple sectors, just before the vote, leaving no time to read the almost-500 page piece of legislation.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) was the only Republican to vote against the plan, and no Democrats voted for it.
The Senate version now has to be reconciled with the House version of tax legislation before President Trump can sign it, but the president was up early Saturday tweeting his approval.
The party voted in favor of a tax bill that costs $1.4 trillion dollars and fails to deliver on any promise of tax cuts for middle class families. Republican donors had applied pressure to officials to pass the bill, which overwhelmingly favors large corporations and wealthy taxpayers, despite initial concerns from a number a number of Republican senators.
Many of them were concerned about the effect a tax cut this large will have on the deficit and the fact that there is no means of addressing the debt a bill this expensive would create. The Senate GOP initially wanted a “trigger” in the bill to win over deficit hawks like Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), which would go into effect if growth is slower than predicted by raising revenue through tax hikes or spending cuts.
But, on Thursday night, the Senate parliamentarian deemed the trigger non-compliant with the upper chamber’s rules. Now, senators are hoping their tax plan delivers on the growth it promised despite all analyses indicating that it won’t.
The bill is packed with additions that aren’t related to tax reform, but deliver on a range of GOP wish-list items. The bill eliminates Obamacare’s individual mandate, a move that is expected to cause an estimated 13 million people to lose insurance coverage. It allows oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. It strains spending on public schools while creating benefits for private and religious schools.
Sen. Bernie Sanders railed against the bill on the Senate floor late Friday, saying, “The federal treasury is being looted tonight.”
“I have not the slightest doubt, as I have said before, that after the Republicans pass this huge tax giveaway to the wealthy and large corporations, they will be back on the floor of the senate,” Sanders said. “And when they come back, they’ll say ‘Oh, my goodness, the deficit is too high. We have got to cut social security, medicare, medicaid, education, and nutritional programs. In other words, in order to give tax breaks to billionaires and to large profitable corporation, they’re going to cut programs for the elderly, the children, the working families of this country, and the poor.”
This legislation, Sanders said, “will go down in history as one of the worst, most unfair pieces of legislation ever passed.”
The process was a frantic scramble that left Democrats in the dark about what was in the bill. Even the Joint Committee on Taxes — the bipartisan body tasked with scoring such legislation — had not released its analysis of the bill’s final cost until after it had passed.
On the Senate floor, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) held up the nearly 1,000-page bill and said none of them would have time to read it in full before Republicans moved to vote.
Just after 7:00 p.m., Sen. John Tester (D-MT) tweeted that he had just gotten the bill 25 minutes before.
Even late into the evening, additions were being passed around that were made so late-minute, they were scribbled into the margins on a paper copy. Sen. Dick Durban (D-IL) tweeted, “Trying to review the #GOPTaxScam but they are making hand-written changes to brand new text as we speak — can anyone else read this?”
Durbin tried to get the page put into the record Congressional record, but staff said it was illegible.
The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation found that the tax plan would generate around $400 billion dollars worth of growth, leaving the total net cost of the plan to be $1 trillion dollars, but only growing the United States’ GDP by 0.8 percent over the next decade.
The JCT also found that only 62 percent of Americans would get a tax cut worth $100 or more in 2019 under the Senate plan; the remaining 38 percent would pay either the same amount in taxes or see their taxes rise (those earning $50,000 to $75,000 would see a tax hike of $100 or more, the analysis showed). This dynamic scoring doesn’t even include the potential damage that higher premiums and lower Medicaid enrollment included in the tax bill could trigger.