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Trump celebrates after Congress wraps up massive tax package

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump cheered a massive overhaul of U.S. tax laws Wednesday, saying “we broke every record.”

Flanked by Republican lawmakers, the president took a bow outside the White House shortly after the House finished its last-minute re-vote to pass the $1.5 trillion bill that provides generous tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans while providing smaller cuts for middle- and low-income families.

Democrats call the legislation a boon to the rich that leaves middle-class and working Americans behind.

Trump said the effort had “been an amazing experience” and claimed it resulted in “the largest tax cut in the history of our country.”

Actually, Trump’s cuts are nowhere near the largest in U.S. history

The vote was 224-201 and came hours after the Senate’s early morning passage along party-lines.

Republicans cheered when the vote tally hit the magic number for passage, and again when the final vote was announced. One Democrat yelled, “Do over!”

It is the first major overhaul of the nation’s tax laws since 1986.

On Twitter and in White House remarks, Trump hailed the outcome, his own efforts and the work of GOP allies, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who had drawn the president’s wrath for the Senate’s inability this past summer to dismantle the health care law.

“Our team will go onto many more VICTORIES!” Trump tweeted.

Congressional Republicans have cast the bill as a blessing for the middle class, an argument they will stress in their drive to hold onto their congressional majorities in next year’s midterm elections. But one comment by Trump could complicate their messaging.

In praising the bill, Trump cited the deep cut in the corporate tax rate, from 35 percent to 21 percent.

“That’s probably the biggest factor in our plan,” the president said at the White House.

Within minutes, during House debate at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., jumped on Trump’s remarks, calling it proof that Republicans were never interested in passing meaningful tax cuts for the middle class.

In a statement, Trump said: “By cutting taxes and reforming the broken system, we are now pouring rocket fuel into the engine of our economy.”

The Senate used a post-midnight vote Wednesday morning to approve the measure on a party-line 51-48 tally. 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.

Shutdown clock ticking; GOP struggling for spending deal

WASHINGTON — With a shutdown clock ticking toward a Friday midnight deadline, congressional Republicans scrambled on Wednesday to finalize a must-pass spending bill. A major obstacle evaporated after key GOP senators dropped a demand to add health insurance subsidies for the poor.

The No. 2 House Republican, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, said party leaders have scrapped plans to combine a short-term spending bill with $81 billion worth of disaster aid and a $658 billion Pentagon funding measure. Instead, Republicans are likely to schedule a separate vote on the disaster package, he said.

The strategy for averting a government shutdown appeared to be coming into focus, though it looks like many items on Capitol Hill’s list of unfinished business could be pushed into next year. It also appears the upcoming short-term measure will fund the government through mid-January, giving lawmakers time to work out their leftover business.

“I think if this all comes together we can vote and leave,” McCarthy said in anticipation of a House vote on Thursday.

Hopes for a bipartisan budget deal to sharply increase spending for both the Pentagon and domestic agencies appeared dead for the year and Democrats were rebuffed in their demands for protections for young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced Wednesday that they would not seek to add the insurance subsidies, which are designed to stabilize the Affordable Care Act’s markets. The tax bill repeals requirement that individuals purchase insurance.