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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Senate moves tax cut legislation to brink of final passage

The bill is expected to be signed by Trump within the end of the week

US vice president Mike Pence arrives for a luncheon with Senate Republicans as lawmakers continue to work for tax reform legislation on Capitol Hill December. Brendan Smialowski / AFP
US vice president Mike Pence arrives for a luncheon with Senate Republicans as lawmakers continue to work for tax reform legislation on Capitol Hill December. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

Jubilant Republicans pushed on early Wednesday 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 Wednesday, 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 on Wednesday, and Republicans have a chance to celebrate again. But the vote is considered a formality and the bill is largely expected to be signed in the next couple of days.

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.

But Democrats called the bill a giveaway to corporations and the wealthy, with no likelihood that business owners will use their gains to hire more workers or raise wages. And they mocked the Republicans' contention that the bill will make taxes so simple that millions can file their returns "on a postcard" — an idea repeated often by the president.

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