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Senate GOP Clears Way For Tax Overhaul 10/20 05:40

   Republicans must shift their focus to enacting President Donald Trump's 
sweeping tax plan, a far heavier lift than the $4 trillion budget plan they've 
muscled through the Senate to lay the groundwork for the first tax overhaul in 
three decades.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans must now shift their focus to enacting 
President Donald Trump's sweeping tax plan, a far heavier lift than the $4 
trillion budget plan they've muscled through the Senate to lay the groundwork 
for the first tax overhaul in three decades.

   The GOP on Thursday narrowly backed the budget plan, a prerequisite to major 
tax legislation. The Senate methodically worked through a pack of amendments, 
with Republicans rebuffing Democrats' successive attempts to reshape the 
blueprint and derail the tax cuts in the Senate. The final vote was 51-49 with 
deficit hawk Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky the lone opposing GOP vote.

   Republicans will have a far harder time approving a complex plan to bring 
steep tax cuts, especially for corporations, and overhaul the nation's tax 
system, which has sharply divided House Republicans on regional fault lines.

   Trump, who made revamping the tax system a campaign pledge, told reporters 
Thursday that the budget "will be phase one of our massive tax cuts and reform."

   In a post-midnight Twitter post, he hailed the vote as "Great news," saying 
that it is a "first step toward delivering MASSIVE tax cuts for the American 
people."

   Enacting a tax overhaul by year's end is a prime goal of Trump and the 
Republicans, who are looking for accomplishments following an embarrassing 
drought of legislative achievements and the collapse of several Obamacare 
repeal attempts. Republican lawmakers publicly admit that failure on taxes 
would be politically devastating with control of the House and Senate at stake 
in next year's midterm elections.

   "It would be a complete disaster," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said after 
the final budget vote.

   The budget blueprint, using Congress' twisty rules, greases the wheels for 
the tax package by enabling the Senate Republicans to catapult it through 
without fear of a filibuster -- a delaying tactic meant to kill legislation -- 
by Democrats.

   But the Republicans are split. A restive rump of House Republicans from 
high-tax states like New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California staunchly 
oppose the tax plan's proposed elimination of the federal deduction for state 
and local taxes. They maintain it would hurt low- to mid-income taxpayers and 
subject them to being taxed twice.

   Their vocal opposition has led Republican leaders in Congress like House 
Speaker Paul Ryan and Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, who heads the tax-writing Ways 
and Means Committee, to hear out the fractious GOP members and seek a 
compromise with them.

   At the same time, the White House is making overtures to conservative 
Democrats in the House and Democratic senators from states that Trump won in 
the 2016 election. Most heavily courted have been Sens. Claire McCaskill of 
Missouri, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota -- 
the trio dined this week at the home of daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, 
Jared Kushner, both top advisers to Trump.

   "There are plenty of Democrats who would probably benefit from helping 
President Trump on tax cuts if they help working people," said Graham. He said 
he plans to propose an increase in the minimum wage as part of the legislation, 
something that could appeal to Democratic lawmakers.

   But Manchin said after Thursday's vote, "I fear that passage of this budget 
today will make it difficult to pass bipartisan tax reform in the coming 
weeks." In his conversations with Trump, Manchin said, "we have discussed our 
shared goal of ensuring any tax-reform package passes with both Republican and 
Democratic votes, and focuses on providing tax relief for working Americans. 
The current tax-reform proposal ... does not reflect my conversations with the 
president."

   The Democrats were excluded from the drafting of the tax blueprint, and they 
continue to demand that any tax-cutting plan not add to the mounting $20 
trillion national debt. The newly-adopted Senate budget plan provides for $1.5 
trillion over 10 years in debt-financed tax cuts, busting earlier Republican 
pledges of strict fiscal discipline.

   The money would be used for the tax plan's cut in the corporate tax rate 
from 36 percent to 20 percent, reduced taxes for most individuals, and the 
repeal of inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates. The standard 
deduction would be doubled, to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for 
families, the number of tax brackets would shrink from seven to three, and the 
child tax credit would be increased.

   Trump and the Republicans pitch the plan as a boon to the middle class and a 
spark to economic growth and jobs. Democrats charge it mainly would benefit 
wealthy individuals -- like Trump -- and big corporations.

   The bare-bones plan is still evolving with lawmakers left to fill in the 
details. There are too many gaps, such as the income levels that would 
correspond with each tax bracket, to know how the plan actually would affect 
individual taxpayers and families.

   The Senate action on the budget Thursday followed House passage of its 
budget version last week. It calls for tax cuts that don't add to the deficit 
and would pair the tax rewrite measure with $200 billion in spending cuts over 
the coming decade. Both plans seek to crack open a longstanding ban on oil and 
gas exploration in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

   Under congressional rules, the nonbinding budget resolution is supposed to 
lay out a long-term fiscal framework for the government. This year's measure 
calls for $473 billion in cuts from Medicare over 10 years and more than $1 
trillion from Medicaid. All told, Senate Republicans would cut spending by more 
than $5 trillion over a decade, though they don't attempt to spell out where 
the cuts would come from.

   In reality, Republicans aren't serious about implementing the measure's 
politically toxic proposals to cut Medicare, food and farm programs, housing 
subsidies, and transportation. In fact, lawmakers on both sides are pressing to 
break open the measure's tight spending "caps" on the Pentagon and domestic 
agency operations and pass tens of billions of dollars more in hurricane relief 
in coming days and weeks


(KA)

 
 
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