The Senate passed the GOP’s $1.5 trillion tax cut early Wednesday morning, leaving just one technical hurdle and President Trump’s signature as the final steps before the president’s top legislative priority becomes reality.
There was little last-minute drama in the Senate, where the final tally was 51-48, hardly different from the original version that cleared the Senate earlier this month.
Not a single Democrat voted for it, just as no House Democrat voted for a version Tuesday.
Moments after the bill was passed, Trump was quick to hail its passing and said if approved by the House Wednesday morning, there will be a news conference at 1pm.
‘The United States Senate just passed the biggest in history Tax Cut and Reform Bill,’ he tweeted just after 1am.
‘Terrible Individual Mandate (ObamaCare)Repealed. Goes to the House tomorrow morning for final vote.’
House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted: ‘Great news. The Senate just passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. After years of work, we are going to enact the most sweeping, pro-growth overhaul of our tax code in a generation.’
A wave of protesters provided one of the biggest bursts of emotion. A group of people yelled out ‘Kill the bill, don’t kill us!’ as the final vote was being taken.
‘The Sergeant at Arms will restore order in the gallery,’ said Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the chamber.
Pence’s appearance was a flourish that put him in the spotlight – though party leaders knew in advance his potential tie-breaking vote was not needed.
One protester yelled at GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, ‘Have you no shame?’
Flake voted for the bill, weeks after warning colleagues against complicity with Trump.
Moments after the decision, Bernie Sanders tweeted: ‘Senate Republicans just passed their tax reform bill. What an utter disgrace.’
Before the vote, as the debate stretched toward midnight, Pence tweeted out a photo of himself huddling with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and economic advisor Gary Cohn.
The House still had to sort through one legislative hiccup – after Democrats raised a procedural objection to minor provisions in the bill that the Senate parliamentarian ruled were not allowable.
‘After eight straight years of slow growth and under-performance, America is ready to take off,’ said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky at a press conference after passage.
Asked about a need to ‘sell’ the bill, McConnell said: ‘If we can’t sell this to the American people I think we ought to go into another line of work.’
Asked about the bill’s low polling and Democrats’ warnings Republicans would ‘rue the day’ if they voted for it, he said: ‘Every single Democrat voted for this. They’re all committed to repealing it and raising taxes on the American people. That’s what’s at stake in the fall of 2018.’
The parliamentary ruling, which got sustained after Republicans failed to strike it down, requires the House to revote on a new version bill Wednesday morning so that each bill is identical and President Trump can sign it.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer ripped the measure as ‘as sloppy and as partisan as the process used to draft it.’
He warned his colleagues: ‘Vote no. Otherwise, I believe the entire Republican Party, and each of you, will come to rue this day.’
He called for order during his floor speech and barked at colleagues who were talking rather than listening.
‘This is serious stuff. We believe you’re messing up America. You could pay attention for a couple of minutes,’ he grumbled.
Wavering senators removed most of the drama by announcing their support in advance. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, who Trump mocked as ‘liddle’ during an earlier feud, flipped from opposing the earlier version to supporting the final conference report that cleared the Senate Tuesday night.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine announced her support in advance.
Sen. John McCain, who provided a dramatic thumbs-down to the GOP’s ‘skinny’ Obamacare repeal bill, is recovering at home from his treatment for brain cancer. He announced his backing for an earlier version of the tax cut.
The hours-long debate Tuesday was mostly pro forma. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch bemoaned the lack of Democratic support – although leaders decided to move the bill through ‘reconciliation’ procedures that allowed them to circumvent the minority and pass it on a simple majority.
‘Where is this bipartisanship that this country desperately needs?’ asked Hatch. ‘Our tax policy is for the birds,’ he added.
Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon called the final bill an ‘abomination’ as well as ‘the biggest bank heist – not just in American history but in the history of the world.’
As the hours drew on, senators continued to inveigh one way or the other to a mostly empty chamber but with an eye toward C-Span and cable audiences.
‘Not a single Democrat would break from party discipline,’ complained Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. ‘Why? Because they are so united in their rage at President Trump,’ the president’s former primary rival said.
He said families would see benefits in their pay stubs within weeks.
Democrats saw their hopes dashed of scoring another dramatic defeat of a GOP initiative, after seeing the Obamacare repeal tank earlier this year.
With passage all but assured, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the leading Democrat on the Finance Committee, turned his focus to future battles, warning Americans that Republicans would be ‘coming for your Social Security and Medicare before you take you Christmas tree down.’
Now, all that is left for the House to do is vote again following an earlier technical parliamentary error.
Speaker Ryan, who earlier said ‘this is a day I’ve been looking forward to for a long time’, will get to relive his dream Wednesday, because a few minor provisions in the House bill were out of order.
That would require another procedural motion to ensure both chambers are passing identical measures.
In that case, the House would meet at 9am Wednesday and then vote.
The rule prevents certain types of legislating in what is nominally a revenue bill – crammed into a special procedure that only requires a simple majority to pass to avoid having to negotiate with Democrats.
There are a ‘couple little glitches,’ Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News Tuesday night, but they are only ‘minor adjustments.’
One of the out-of-order provisions lets people save in tax-deferred 529 plans to home school their kids, Politico reported. Another may deal with a college’s exemption from an endowment tax.
It is up to Democrats or any senator to raise an objection to force a ruling.
A Senate leadership aide downplayed the hiccup in the final stretch.
‘No one’s fault. They’re tiny provisions that don’t affect the overall bill. These small provisions were all that Dems could find. The House will pass again,’ the aide said.
An amendment by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz made it into the final conference report, allowing parents to withdraw up to $10,000 from tax-deferred 529 college savings plans for home schooling their kids at a younger age.
The plans could now be used for K-12 elementary and secondary tuition, including for home-schooling.
Aides were still scrambling to figure out how the technical ruling would affect the legislation.
Cruz touted the amendment on his Senate and campaign web site.
‘By expanding choice for parents and opportunities for children, we have prioritized the education of the next generation of Americans,’ Cruz said on the Senate floor when the amendment passed on a tie vote with an assist from Vice President Mike Pence.
A Senate GOP aide told DailyMail.com the only portion likely to be knocked out involved home schooling – not the bulk of the amendment for the first time making 529s eligible for K-12 schools including private or parochial schools.
In states that define home-schooling as a type of private school, it is possible that funding could still be eligible.
In another blow, of the PR variety, Senate Democrats objected to the pleasing name Republicans attached to the bill, the so-called short title, the ‘The Tax Cuts And Jobs Act.’