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CAPITOL HILL — The U.S. Senate voted late Tuesday to overhaul America’s tax system, putting President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans one perfunctory vote away from scoring a major legislative victory and fulfilling a campaign promise.
All 51 Senate Republicans present voted in favor of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, while all 48 Democrats opposed it.
“We stand today on the precipice of the most sweeping change to our tax system in over 30 years,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican. “This is a historic moment.”
“Today the Republican Party officially turns its back on America’s middle class,” said the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Oregon‘s Ron Wyden. “This vote will not be forgotten.”
The bill permanently slashes corporate taxes, temporarily cuts taxes paid by American wage and salary earners, caps popular tax deductions, and hikes the U.S. national debt by at least $1 trillion over a decade.
The Republican-led House of Representatives approved the bill earlier in the day on a party-line vote. It must go back to the House later Wednesday for one final vote to correct several technical matters before it can be sent to the White House for Trump’s signature.
Republicans argued tax cuts will rev up the U.S. economy and make American businesses more competitive at home and abroad.
“Countries around the globe are getting the message loud and clear that America is committed to leading in the 21st century,” South Dakota Senator John Thune said.” We’re committed to leading when it comes to innovation and growth. We’re committed to leading when it comes to ensuring that American companies can stay here and compete and keep jobs here against foreign competition.”
“Our tax code has hampered job creation, wage growth, investment in the United States, and has chased American companies to foreign shores. I don’t know how it could be more harmful,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah said. “The bill before us will address these problems and help us turn the ship around.”
Democrats slammed the bill as mortgaging America’s future at home and abroad in order to pad the pockets of the wealthy.
“There are going to be incentives for big multinational corporations to ship jobs overseas, and with that you get more factory towns going dark,” Wyden said.
“We are challenged by 16 years of war, which we have made no attempt to pay for, and [with this bill] we are putting our national security behind benefits for the wealthiest Americans,” the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, said.
The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center concluded the bill would cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans next year, but average cuts for top earners would greatly exceed reductions for people earning less.
The legislation also partially repeals former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, eliminating the requirement that Americans purchase health care insurance. As a result, some 13 million fewer Americans would be insured over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Some Democrats noted that the president, a real estate mogul, could benefit greatly from certain provisions in the bill. Trump has insisted the change in tax law would cost him money.
Before the Senate vote, some Democrats acknowledged they were all but powerless to stop majority Republicans.
“The majority has the votes and there is not much Democrats can do to stop it,” New York Representative Louise Slaughter said.
Republicans were unapologetic in anticipation of victory.
“We do come to Washington to cut taxes and let people keep more of their hard-earned money,” Wyoming Senator John Barrasso said. “And we’re doing that today.”
Public opinion polls consistently show more Americans oppose than back the bill. Several Republican lawmakers have blamed the news media, saying reporters misrepresented the tax bill and downplayed its potential benefits.