WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives approved on Tuesday Donald Trump’s huge tax reform plan, which – if approved by the Senate, as expected – will be the first legislative victory for the president.
In a 227-203 vote, all of the yes votes being Republicans, but the no votes including 12 GOP lawmakers, the plan is controversial because it is unusual for Congress to approve laws of this importance without bipartisan support.
If ultimately approved and signed by Trump, this would be the first tax reform since 1986.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Fox News that Tuesday is a “huge day” for the US after the House approved the tax plan, although many independent analysts say that the greatest benefits will accrue to the very wealthiest Americans – that is, to a relatively tiny percentage of the population – and not to the middle class.
“Today is a huge day, not just for the White House, not just for Congress but most importantly for America,” Sanders said.
The basic text of the reform package is aimed at cutting taxes on high-income earners and companies, significantly reducing the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent and establishing seven tax brackets for individuals.
The bill, which will be voted on later on Tuesday in the Senate, does not eliminate the alternative minimum tax for individuals or the inheritance tax, both of which are long-term aims of Republican lawmakers, but it does raise the standard deduction.
Among the most controversial elements of the package, apart from the tax reduction for the highest income earners, is the fact that it removes – starting in 2019 – the requirement that individuals acquire health insurance, a provision of the health care reform implemented by former President Barack Obama, and allows oil and gas drilling on part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Trump, who has been pressuring Republican lawmakers for months to give him his first legislative victory after several spectacular failures, could sign the tax reform before year end.
To do that, however, Republicans will have to resort to a legislative technicality that is unorthodox for such a far-reaching reform, thus preventing any obstruction of the plan by Senate Democrats, where the GOP has a very narrow majority.
With a majority in both houses of Congress but battling internal differences, it is expected that the Republicans will not secure any Democratic votes for the package, showing the unpopularity of the plan across much of the nation.