US Congress passes budget, paving way for tax debate
US House Republicans narrowly passed a budget on Oct 26, 2017, and sent the controversial measure to President Donald Trump's desk.
WASHINGTON: US House Republicans narrowly passed a budget on Thursday (Oct 26) and sent the controversial measure to President Donald Trump's desk, opening the way for debate over his tax overhaul that includes US$1.5 trillion in tax cuts.The resolution, which passed 216 to 212 with no Democratic support, is widely acknowledged among lawmakers to be merely a vehicle for passing tax reform under terms favourable to Trump's party, as it contains special language that allows a tax plan to pass the Senate with a simple majority.But with 20 Republicans voting no, many from high-tax states like New Jersey, who were worried that Trump's plan to end or curtail certain tax deductions would harm their constituents, the vote was a nailbiter.Trump, on Twitter, hailed the measure's passage as "big news."The White House said the president was eager to work with lawmakers to overhaul the tax code, even as internal discord could put the package in jeopardy.The fiscal year 2018 budget passed the Senate last week on party line vote of 51-49.
The legislation authorizes procedures that allow the Republicans who control Congress to reduce federal revenue by up to US$1.5 trillion over the next 10 years without any Democratic help.It includes language barring senators from introducing a filibuster, a blocking technique that requires 60 votes to overcome in the 100-member chamber. Republicans hold 52 Senate seats."This was an enormous step in the direction toward getting comprehensive tax reform and tax cuts for middle-class families over the line," House Speaker Paul Ryan said.Nine months into his presidency, and after failing to repeal former president Barack Obama's health care law, Trump's tax gambit is the last chance to salvage key planks of his 2017 legislative agenda.It has become a top party priority, and he and Republican congressional leaders want the deal passed by year's end.'UNCOMFORTABLE'Details of the tax plan are still being hammered out, but House Ways and Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady, the overhaul's chief author, said the bill will be rolled out on Nov 1.The general framework includes some US$1.5 trillion in tax cuts.The basis of the reforms, outlined last month, is a drop in the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 per cent, a reduction in income tax for the majority of income groups, and the elimination of loopholes and deductions to fix a tax code which Trump calls a "relic."Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer warned that the package would slash the federal health programs Medicare and Medicaid and "explode the deficit."And he pointed to the no votes by 20 Republicans, including seven from Schumer's New York state, to show "how uncomfortable" some are with eliminating the state and local deduction."In the weeks ahead, Democrats will do everything we can to preserve it and work to defeat any tax proposal that favors the wealthy few over the middle class many," Schumer said.Several fiscal conservative Republicans who opposed the budget measure expressed concern about failing to rein in Washington's out-of-control spending, and adding trillions to the US deficit, which currently tops US$20 trillion.
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