20 October 2019
Donald Trump celebrates with Republican lawmakers after the House of Representatives passed sweeping tax overhaul legislation on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters
Donald Trump celebrates with Republican lawmakers after the House of Representatives passed sweeping tax overhaul legislation on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters

US tax bill clears Congress in a win for Trump

The US House of Representatives on Wednesday gave final approval to the biggest overhaul of the nation’s tax code in 30 years, delivering President Donald Trump his first major legislative victory.

The Republican-controlled House approved the US tax bill 224-201, passing it for the second time in two days after a procedural foul-up forced another vote, Reuters reports.

The Senate had earlier passed the measure 51-48 in the early hours of Wednesday.

With the Congress clearing the sweeping US$1.5 trillion tax bill, it now heads to Trump for his signature.

Republicans steamrolled opposition from Democrats to pass the bill that slashes taxes for corporations and the wealthy while giving mixed, temporary tax relief to middle-class Americans.

“We are making America great again,” Trump said at a White House celebration with Republican lawmakers. “Ultimately what does it mean? It means jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Trump said at an earlier Cabinet meeting that lowering the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent was “probably the biggest factor in this plan”.

It is uncertain when the bill would be formally signed into law.

White House economic adviser Gary Cohn said the timing depends on whether automatic spending cuts triggered by the legislation could be waived. If so, Trump will sign it before the end of the year, he said.

The administration expects the waiver to be included in a spending resolution Congress will pass later this week, a White House official told reporters.

In addition to cutting the corporate income tax rate, the legislation gives other business owners a new 20 percent deduction on business income and reshapes how the government taxes multinational corporations, Reuters noted.

Under the bill, millions of Americans would stop itemizing deductions, putting tax breaks that incentivize home ownership and charitable donations out of their reach, but also making tax returns somewhat simpler and shorter.

The bill keeps the existing number of tax brackets but adjusts many of the rates and income levels for each one. The top tax rate for high earners is reduced. The estate tax on inheritances is changed so far fewer people will pay.

In two provisions added to secure needed Republican votes, the legislation allows oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and removes a tax penalty under the Obamacare health law for Americans who do not obtain health insurance.

“We have essentially repealed Obamacare and we’ll come up with something that will be much better,” Trump said.

Democrats were united in opposition to the tax legislation, calling it a giveaway to the wealthy that will widen the income gap between rich and poor, while adding US$1.5 trillion over the next decade to the US$20 trillion national debt. 

“Today the Republicans take their victory lap for successfully pillaging the American middle class to benefit the powerful and the privileged,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said.

Opinion polls show the tax bill is unpopular with the public.

Democrats promised to make Republicans pay for their vote during next year’s congressional elections, when all 435 House seats and 34 of the 100 Senate seats will be up for grabs.

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