Senate panel passes tax overhaul plan, aims for full vote after Thanksgiving

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., attends a Senate finance committee markup session for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which the panel passed Thursday night. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Nov. 17 (UPI) — Both houses of Congress have taken important steps in delivering one of President Donald Trump‘s top priorities — the largest rewrite of the U.S. tax code in more than three decades.

In a late session Thursday, the Senate’s finance committee narrowly approved its version of the Republican-led overhaul — and sent the controversial plan to the full chamber for approval, or denial.

The committee passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act by a vote of 14-12, strictly along party lines.

“After months of hard work and nearly a week of robust deliberation on the merits of this legislation, the Senate Finance Committee acted tonight to advance the most comprehensive tax reform bill in a generation,” the panel’s chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, said. “This is a historic moment and one we should all be proud of.”

The panel’s approval was required for a full Senate vote, which Senate Republicans say will happen after lawmakers debate the measure upon returning from the Thanksgiving break.

Earlier Thursday, the full House passed its version of the reform plan — without support from 13 Republicans. The Senate’s plan — which effectively nixes the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate — is expected to encounter greater GOP resistance.

The House’s proposal does not include the ACA provision.

The Senate version has several other differences from the House bill, including retention of taxpayer deductions and changes to the corporate tax rate.

Floor debate in the upper chamber is expected to be more antagonistic than it was in the House this week. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., was the first Republican to publicly oppose the plan approved by the finance committee — saying he’s concerned the corporate tax rate will fall while small businesses using the pass-through rate, where profits and losses are put upon owners, will be higher.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, opposes the bill for the ACA provision. Government analysts have said eliminating the mandate would save more than $330 billion over 10 years, but premiums would rise as a result.

Republicans hold a 52 to 48-seat majority in the Senate, and too many defections could defeat the bill.

“With this bill, we act to strengthen the middle class, reward hard-working taxpayers, and get our economy back on track,” Hatch added. “While we’ve cleared a major hurdle tonight, there is still much work to be done and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this across the finish line.”

No Democrats in the House voted for its bill, and Democrats in the Senate say its version does little to help middle- and lower-class Americans.

“We can’t let Republicans get away with robbing the middle class. Let’s call it what it really is — a #GOPTaxScam,” Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., tweeted.

“Senate Republicans put corporate handouts over the health and well-being of America’s middle class,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., added. “The time for action is NOW.”

Trump lamented Democratic opposition on Friday morning.

“If Democrats were not such obstructionists and understood the power of lower taxes, we would be able to get many of their ideas into Bill!” he tweeted.

“They want to raise taxes much higher, but not for our military!”

If the Senate bill is passed, it would need to be reconciled with the House version before Trump can sign a final proposal into law. GOP lawmakers said they want to get a finalized plan to Trump’s desk by the end of the year.

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