The Senate may have stayed in session into the wee hours early Wednesday morning in order to pass the most sweeping tax overhaul in 30 years, but the final vote on the matter actually happened out in broad daylight. Because of some wonky parliamentary rules, the Senate forced the House to vote on the measure yet again Wednesday afternoon. In this second vote, the House passed the GOP tax plan again on party lines, sending the bill on to President Trump's desk.
The now-final vote on the tax plan was 224 to 201. Twelve Republicans broke rank, perhaps due to the fact that the bill is polling as extremely unpopular among the public. A CNN poll conducted by SSRS and released Tuesday showed that 55 percent of Americans opposed the plan.
The bill's main features lower the tax rates on businesses and the rich. The corporate tax rate will be lowered to 21 percent from 35 percent, while pass-through taxation, which business owners use to avoid paying that corporate rate in addition to personal income tax, will see a break too. The highest personal income tax bracket also has been lowered to 37 percent from 39.6 percent.
Late Tuesday the Senate had to address some specific items in the bill that caused problems for Senate parliamentarians, who said those items ran afoul of the chamber's rules. The tax bill was being passed through the Senate using a process known as reconciliation, which requires just 50 votes instead of the usual 60. But that reconciliation process also required the bill to follow something called the Byrd rule, which forbids any part of the bill to increase the federal deficit after 10 years, change Social Security, or leave revenues unchanged.
A few provisions were stripped out of the bill because of the Byrd rule. One had to do with 529 savings accounts; the GOP tax plan would have allowed those funds to go toward home schooling, not just college. Another provision would have exempted a school in Kentucky from a new tax on university endowments. So the Senate took those items out before they approved the bill 51 to 48, entirely along party lines.
The House then needed to approve the version of the bill with those changes on Wednesday, which was somewhat of an embarrassment for GOP leaders. "The House revote is the latest evidence of just how shoddily written the GOP tax scam really is,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement when the need for a second vote became clear. "The wealthy and well-connected will be exploiting the hidden loopholes and giveaways in the GOP tax scam for years to come."
The plan had been to get the bill to Trump by Tuesday, but even with a day's delay, Republicans are celebrating a victory on tax reform. Lawmakers can't rest on their laurels for long, though: they must quickly switch their focus now to passing a stopgap spending measure. If no bill is passed by Friday, the government will shut down just before the Christmas holiday on Saturday. The House vote on that spending measure was scheduled to take place on Wednesday, but it now looks like it will be delayed as well.
Trump talked up the tax plan on Twitter as it headed for the final House vote. "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," Trump wrote. "This is truly a case where the results will speak for themselves, starting very soon. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!" Economists have argued the tax cuts will make little to no difference in job creation, however. Trump promised to hold a news conference at 1 p.m. ET Wednesday at the White House if the bill passed.