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Republican tax bill heads to a vote

The House began debate on the final $1.5 trillion tax bill on Tuesday morning and will vote this afternoon.

The Senate is expected to follow with its own debate and a vote, possibly on Tuesday evening.

The state of play

The day Republicans have been anxiously awaiting is here as they plan move their legislation to a vote first in the House, followed by a Senate vote.

The Senate, in which the party has a much narrower majority – just 52-48 – than the House, scored two significant wins on Monday when Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine said they would back the bill. With Bob Corker of Tennessee also on board, the tax overhaul appears headed to passage, even without the vote of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has returned home to receive medical treatment.

If all goes as planned and no Republicans defect, the bill should arrive on President Donald Trump’s desk before the Christmas deadline the party has outlined.

The debate will be largely a sideshow

The bill is done and dusted and while the lawmakers are debating the bill on the House floor Tuesday, it will not alter its content or trajectory.
Republicans are expected to continue promoting the benefits of the tax cut as helping the middle-class while Democrats will continue to assail the bill as a gift to corporations and the wealthy.

Several changes in the legislation were made last week when the House and Senate versions were reconciled.

The tax bill is still unpopular

Republicans might be preparing to celebrate the passage of their tax bill, but everyday taxpayers are not popping the Champagne bottles just yet.

A new poll from CNN and SSRS found that the tax legislation continues to be unpopular with the general public, with 55 percent opposing the proposals and 33 percent supporting them. Opposition to the bill has jumped by 10 percentage points since early November.

More people think they will be worse off after the tax bill is signed into law, and a majority of people think the tax cuts will favor the rich rather than the middle class.

The survey, conducted from Thursday to Sunday, queried 1,001 adults by landline and cellphone.

Republicans say people will learn to love the tax bill

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin dismissed polling that suggests the tax bill is unpopular and attributed skepticism about the legislation to pundits spreading untruths on television.

He said that he was confident that once taxpayers saw more money in their paychecks and enjoyed the benefits of a simpler tax filing system, they would learn to appreciate the merits of the tax bill.

“Results are going to make this popular,” Ryan said at his weekly news conference.

Club for Growth wanted a bigger Christmas gift
Not all conservatives are jumping for joy over the prospect of tax cuts for Christmas.

The Club for Growth said on Tuesday that the $1.5 trillion tax bill “falls short of pro-growth expectations.”

The group wants Republicans to try again next year with a focus of lowering taxes for pass-through businesses, eliminating the estate tax completely, fully repealing the alternative minimum tax and getting rid of the rest of the Affordable Care Act’s taxes.

“There’s no reason we have to wait another 30 years to enact additional reform,” said David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth.

Some Republicans from high-tax states will vote no

The original House bill passed without support from 13 Republicans, including 12 from the high-tax states of California, New York and New Jersey, where constituents could see their taxes go up because of a cap to the state and local tax deduction, known as SALT. The Senate and House bills both capped SALT at $10,000 and restricted it to deducting property taxes only.

The final tax bill still contains a cap of $10,000 but allows individuals to use that deduction for property taxes as well either income or sales taxes. But the change is not expected to be enough to win over many of the Republicans who voted against the House bill given they could be vulnerable to losing their seats if constituents feel a pinch from higher taxes.

The list of House Republicans planning to vote no over SALT objections as of now includes:

  • New York Reps. Lee Zeldin, Peter T. King, Dan Donovan, John J. Faso and Elise Stefanik.
  • New Jersey Reps. Frank A. LoBiondo, Christopher H. Smith and Leonard Lance.
  • California Reps. Darrell Issa and Dana Rohrabacher.

The wealthiest still benefit the most under tax bill

The final tax bill would reduce taxes on average by about $1,600 in 2018, with the largest benefit going to the wealthiest households, a new analysis finds.

The Tax Policy Center, which analyzed the final bill, said households earning $733,000 and up would get an average tax cut of about $50,000 or 3.4 percent of their after-tax income. Those in the middle-income group – earning between $49,000 and $86,000 – would pay about $900 less than under current law, a cut of about 1.6 percent of after-tax income.

The lowest income households would get an even smaller benefit compared to current law, a cut of about 0.4 percent of after-tax income.
While the bill has changed several times since it originally was introduced in the House and Senate, the basic financial impact remains the same, writes Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center.

“Most households would get a tax cut at first, with the biggest benefits going to those with the highest incomes. After 2025, when nearly all of the bill’s individual income tax provisions are due to expire, only high-income people would get a meaningful tax cut,” Gleckman writes.

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