White House, GOP celebrate passing sweeping tax bill

(CNN) — The House of Representatives gave final approval Wednesday afternoon to its major rewrite of the US tax code, the first major legislative accomplishment for congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump this year.

Republican lawmakers joined Trump on the White House lawn Wednesday afternoon to celebrate their largest legislative achievement of 2017, in a public ceremony lauding most sweeping overhaul of the US tax system in more than 30 years.

“It’s always a lot of fun when you win,” Trump said at the ceremony, after thanking congressional leaders including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Hailing passage of the GOP’s tax plan and surrounded by dozens of prominent Republicans in Congress, Trump said the package would fulfill his core campaign promise.

“It’s really — it’s simple. When you think you haven’t heard this expression — we are making America great again,” he said.

Among those Republicans not at the White House on Wednesday: Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who voted for the Senate tax bill on Wednesday morning, but also acknowledged publicly that health care subsidies she wanted included in a government spending deal will not be included before Congress leaves for its holiday break.

The bill passed the House a second time 224-201, with no Democrats backing it and a dozen House GOP members voting no. The measure now heads to the Trump’s desk for his signature.

In a vote in the early Wednesday morning hours, the Senate approved the final version of the first overhaul of the US tax code in more than 30 years. The bill passed along party lines, 51-48, with the final result announced by Vice President Mike Pence, who presided over the vote. The House passed the bill earlier Tuesday, but technical changes were made to it in the Senate.

A fractured GOP unified to pass a landmark tax plan: Here’s how it came together

Trump plans to thank congressional leaders for their hard work at the White House celebration, economic adviser Gary Cohn said at an event hosted by Axios.

The event will take on a “celebratory atmosphere,” Cohn said, but Trump will remind the Republican leaders from the House and Senate they “still have a lot of work to do.”

The President will not actually sign the bill Wednesday, however. The bill will not be “enrolled” yet — the formal term for when a final copy of a bill passed by both houses of Congress is sent to the White House.

Uphill climb for Republicans

While Republicans cheer the bill’s passage, however, 55% of Americans oppose the plan, according to a new CNN poll. Just 33% say they favor the GOP’s proposals to reform the nation’s tax code.

McConnell told CNN that Republicans will continue to try to sell the bill to the public.

“Absolutely. We’re looking forward to it,” McConnell said. “My view of this is, if we can’t sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work.”

Trump said the “results will speak for themselves.”

“The Tax Cuts are so large and so meaningful, and yet the Fake News is working overtime to follow the lead of their friends, the defeated Dems, and only demean. This is truly a case where the results will speak for themselves, starting very soon. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!” the President tweeted.

Ryan appeared on several morning shows Wednesday to defend the legislation he’s worked toward since 1993.

“When (the bill) gets in place, when people see their paychecks getting bigger in February because withholding tables have adjusted to reflect their tax cuts, when businesses are keeping more of what they earn, when they can write off their spending and hire more people, that’s going to change its popularity, I am convinced,” he told CBS in an interview. “So I think there’s just tons of confusion out there as to what this does or doesn’t do. A lot of people think it’s going to raise their taxes. So the proof is in the pudding, and I think the results will speak for themselves.”

Highlights of the bill

The plan — which critics say is heavily weighted to ease the tax burden on businesses rather than the middle class — drops the corporate tax rate down from 35% to 21%, repeals the corporate alternative minimum tax, nearly doubles the standard deduction for individuals and restructures the way pass-through businesses are taxed.

The bill keeps seven personal income tax brackets and lowers that tax rates for most brackets, including dropping the top rate to 37% from 39.6%.

For more on what exactly is in the bill’s policy, check out CNN Money’s full rundown.

The Joint Committee on Taxation found that all income groups will, on average, see a tax cut in 2019, though the projections worsen over time. In 2019, all taxpayers would see an 8% tax cut. The JCT, however, found that by 2027 taxpayers earning up to $75,000 would receive a tax increase — this would stem from the sunsetting individual rate cuts in the final GOP bill, along with the repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate.

 


 

(CNN) — Sens. Susan Collins and Lamar Alexander announced Wednesday that they will not push for a controversial health care payment to be included in a short-term spending bill, citing concerns that it could lead to a year-end government funding showdown between the House and Senate.

The move comes just after Senate Republicans passed their much-anticipated tax bill on the Senate floor early Wednesday morning. Collins, who secured several other provisions in that tax bill including a state and local tax deduction, had also gotten assurances from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that she would get a vote on two Obamacare market stabilization bills by the end of the year. The first bill would temporarily restore cost-sharing reduction payments, which help cover the health care costs of low-income Americans in exchange for market reforms. The other legislation would help shield insurers from high-cost patients in the wake of Republicans repealing the individual mandate in their tax bill. The individual mandate, which requires that Americans have health insurance or face a fine, is important because it draws younger and healthier consumers into Obamacare.

Without it, health care experts have warned insurers will likely hike premiums since more of their customers will be older and sicker.

A fractured GOP unified to pass a landmark tax plan: Here’s how it came together

But despite voting for the tax bill, Congress will leave before taking up Obamacare funding.

“Rather than considering a broad year-end funding agreement as we expected, it has become clear that Congress will only be able to pass another short-term extension to prevent a government shutdown and to continue a few essential programs,” the senators said in a statement.

Collins had real assurances from McConnell that aides say were not given lightly that the health care bills would be delivered by the end of the year, but the politics of the House of Representatives complicated the matter.

McConnell doesn’t control the House. In fact, the majority leader doesn’t hold much cache there at all. Members — and not just the usual conservative suspects — revealed earlier this week they’re exasperated by the number of time they feel like they are forced to back whatever the Senate sends them. And, just because McConnell promised Collins a bill doesn’t mean they’ll deliver: especially on something that many view as propping up Obamacare, a law they despise.

“That thing put on the floor on its own would fail spectacularly, and we don’t owe that kind of concession to them,” said Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma. “The speaker made it abundantly clear that while the Senate leadership is fee to make whatever commitments they want in their body, to their members, that does not apply to our body and our members. If we get into that kind of game, I think it will be very destructive.”

In her statement, Collins said that House Speaker Paul Ryan called Wednesday “and said that the House remains committed to passing legislation to provide for high-risk pools and other reinsurance mechanisms similar to the bipartisan legislation I have introduced.”

“He pointed out that by waiting until early next year, we will be able to use a new (Congressional Budget Office) baseline that will result in more funding being available for reinsurance programs that have been proven effective in lowering premiums while protecting people with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis,” Collins said.

Most health care experts say funding the cost sharing reduction subsidies at this point would do little to help lower rates. Insurers have already priced the absence of the subsidies into their 2018 plans.

The additional funds to cover high-cost consumers — called a reinsurance fund — would be more effective at reducing prices for 2019.