US President Donald Trump is a happy man as he addresses the media on tax reform before leaving the White House for New York.
US President Donald Trump is a happy man as he addresses the media on tax reform before leaving the White House for New York. Andrew Harnik

Republicans labelled 'unbeatable' as tax bill approved

DONALD Trump has called his fellow Republicans "unbeatable” as he revels in the passage through the US Senate of a sweeping tax reform bill that should secure his first major legislative victory since entering office.

In a 51-49 pre-dawn vote, Republicans approved a measure that Mr Trump claimed was "the largest tax cut in the history of our country”, but would seemingly benefit the wealthiest Americans most and add $A1.3 trillion ($US1trillion) to the national debt over 10 years.

Calling it "one of the big nights”, Mr Trump swept into New York for a number of political fundraising events delighted at the thought of the largest changes to tax laws since the 1980s. As he left the White House he praised the Senate for passing "tremendous tax reform” and said that "people are going to be very, very happy”.

The legislation will go to the House-Senate committee to reconcile the differing bills the House and the Senate have passed, before landing on the President's desk to sign, but Mr Trump appears unfazed.

"Something beautiful is going to come out of that mixer,” he said. "Right now unless they have somebody that we don't know about, right now we're unbeatable. We're unbeatable.”

Mr Trump said: "And one of the reasons is what's happening with the markets, what's happening with business, what's happening with jobs.”

He made clear that voting against tax cuts would create a problem for Democrats in next year's mid-term elections.

Speaking at a fundraising event at New York restaurant Cipriani, Mr Trump said: "We got no Democrat help and I think that's going to cost them very big in the election because basically they voted against tax cuts. And I don't think politically it's good to vote against tax cuts.”

On the way to the event, Mr Trump's motorcade drove past several hundred protesters decrying the make-up of the tax bill.

Over the previous 24 hours, multiple last-minute alterations were made to the legislation to win support from sceptical Republicans.

"There are changes apparently worth billions and billions of dollars...” said Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who took to the Senate floor several times throughout the day to criticise the bill and the process being used to pass it.

The final text of the bill was not released until a few hours before the vote, with Democrats angry at the speed of the passage of the bill.

"The American people have a right to know the tax policy being made in the dark,” Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had promised Mr Wyden that he would have plenty of time to review the final text, even though the bill is more than 500 pages and includes highly technical language.

Speaking after the passage of the bill, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer bemoaned last-minute changes made to win the support of Republicans.

"The Republicans have managed to take a bad bill and make it worse,” Mr Schumer said.

"Under the cover of darkness and with the aid of haste, a flurry of last-minute changes will stuff even more money into the pockets of the wealthy and the biggest corporations.”

The national debt increase was an issue for Republican Senator Bob Corker, who was the only member of his party to vote against the measure.

"This is yet another tough vote. I am disappointed. I wanted to get to yes,” Mr Corker said in a statement. "But at the end of the day, I am not able to cast aside my fiscal concerns and vote for legislation that I believe, based on the information I currently have, could deepen the debt burden on future generation.”

While he supports parts of the Senate legislation and believes it could be made more fiscally sound, he said, "it is clear the caucus is in a different place.”

Mr Corker had attempted to add $350bn in tax increases to the Senate's tax bill - a proposal that was ultimately rejected.

But despite Mr Corker's decision to vote against the measure, the Republican leadership was still able to secure the 50 'yea' votes needed to pass it.

Republican Senator Susan Collins - seen as a wildcard because of her summer spent bucking leadership on healthcare legislation - announced her support for the tax bill earlier in the day after changes she wanted were made to the legislation.

"Having secured these key improvements in the bill, as well as the commitments to legislation to help lower health insurance premiums, I will cast my vote in support of the Senate tax reform bill,” she said. "As revised, this bill will provide much-needed tax relief and simplification for lower- and middle-income families, while spurring the creation of good jobs and greater economic growth.”

Mr McConnell celebrated the passage by predicting the bill will lead to an economic boost. "We have an opportunity now to make America more competitive, to keep jobs from being shipped offshore and to provide substantial relief to the middle class,” he said.

The Senate tax bill tacked on some controversial Republican-favoured extras, including repealing Obamacare's requirement that most people have health insurance. The proposal, part of efforts to repeal Obamacare, would lead to 13 million people losing their health insurance over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

A move to allow drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was also included in the bill.

Alexandra Wilts, The Independent



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