Tax cut legislation on brink of final passage

REACHING THE FINISH LINE — House Speaker Paul Ryan, center, leaves the House Chamber after voting on the Republican tax bill Tuesday on Capitol Hill in Washington. Republicans muscled the most sweeping rewrite of the nation's tax laws in more than three decades through the House. 
-- Associated Press

REACHING THE FINISH LINE — House Speaker Paul Ryan, center, leaves the House Chamber after voting on the Republican tax bill Tuesday on Capitol Hill in Washington. Republicans muscled the most sweeping rewrite of the nation's tax laws in more than three decades through the House. -- Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Jubilant Republicans pushed early today to the verge of the most sweeping rewrite of the nation’s tax laws in more than three decades, a deeply unpopular bill they insist Americans will learn to love when they see their paychecks in the new year. President Donald Trump cheered the lawmakers on, eager to claim his first major legislative victory.

After midnight, the Senate narrowly passed the legislation on a party-line 51-48 vote. Protesters interrupted with chants of “kill the bill, don’t kill us” and Vice President Mike Pence repeatedly called for order. Upon passage, Republicans cheered, with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin among them.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., insisted Americans would respond positively to the tax bill.

“If we can’t sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work,” he said. Trump hailed the vote in an early morning tweet and promised a White House news conference, likely today, when the House completes legislative action on the measure.

The early morning vote came hours after the GOP rammed the bill through the House, 227-203. But it wasn’t the final word in Congress because of one last hiccup.

Three provisions in the bill, including its title, violated Senate rules, forcing the Senate to vote to strip them out. So the massive bill was hauled back across the Capitol for the House to vote again today, and Republicans have a chance to celebrate again.

Hours earlier, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has worked years toward the goal of revamping the tax code, gleefully pounded the gavel on the House vote. GOP House members roared and applauded as they passed the $1.5 trillion package that will touch every American taxpayer and every corner of the U.S. economy, providing steep tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy, and more modest help for middle- and low-income families.

Despite Republican talk of spending discipline, the bill will push the huge national debt ever higher.

“This was a promise made. This is a promise kept,” Ryan and other GOP leaders said at a victory news conference.

After the delay for a second House vote, the measure then heads to Trump, who is aching for a big political victory after 11 months of legislative failures and nonstarters. The president tweeted his congratulations to GOP leaders and to “all great House Republicans who voted in favor of cutting your taxes!”

Congressional Republicans, who faltered badly in trying to dismantle Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, see passage of the tax bill as crucial to proving to Americans they can govern — and imperative for holding onto House and Senate majorities in next year’s midterm elections.

“The proof will be in the paychecks,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said during the debate.