GOP tax bill clears Congress, heads to Trump

The latest on Congress and sweeping tax cut legislation

Posted: Dec. 20, 2017 10:20 AM
Updated: Dec. 20, 2017 2:36 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Latest on Congress and sweeping tax cut legislation (all times local):

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2:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump's top economics aide insists he is staying at the White House after Congress approved the tax overhaul.

Gary Cohn, the former second-in-command at the investment bank Goldman Sachs, had stirred some frustration with Trump after criticizing the president's equivocating on a white supremacy rally this year in Charlottesville, Virginia. Many administration watchers had expected a Cohn departure following passage of the $1.5 trillion tax cut.

But Cohn said in a televised interview with the media outlet Axios on Wednesday morning that he plans to remain as the director of the National Economic Council to work on infrastructure funding and reshaping welfare policy and financial regulations.

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1:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump is praising the final passage of the tax overhaul, saying "we are now pouring rocket fuel into the engine of our economy."

In a statement released Wednesday after the House passed the $1.5 trillion package in a re-vote, Trump said that he promised the public "a big, beautiful tax cut for Christmas" and "that is exactly what they are getting."

Trump thanked Congress for passing the legislation. He called it a "historic victory for American families, workers and businesses" and said "America is back to winning again."

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1 p.m.

The House's No. 2 Republican says he doesn't expect the Senate to insist on adding health insurance subsidies for the poor to a year-end must-pass spending bill.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters in the Capitol that he does not expect legislation on the subsidies, which are designed to stabilize health insurance markets after the repeal of the mandate that individuals purchase insurance.

Trying to add the health measure, which is strongly opposed by House conservatives, was a demand of Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins when President Donald Trump and Senate GOP leaders secured her vote for the party's tax cut measure.

House Republicans weren't part of that deal - and with the tax vote over it's looking like Senate leaders may not be able to deliver for her.

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12:58 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he's considering a trip to the southern border to take a look at the border wall prototypes currently being tested.

Trump tells reporters during a Cabinet meeting that six different types of wall have been built. In fact, eight border wall prototypes are currently being tested in San Diego.

He says he "may be going there very shortly to look at them in their final form."

Trump is also calling on Congress to fund wall construction along the Mexican border. And he's vowing to overhaul the country's legal immigration system by getting "rid of chain migration," in which legal immigrants' family members are allowed to join them in the United States. He also wants to scrap the diversity lottery program.

He says: "We're making the immigration system work for Americans."

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12:55 p.m.

Republicans in Congress have delivered an epic overhaul of U.S. tax laws to President Donald Trump, bringing generous tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans, and billions to be added to the national debt.

The $1.5 trillion package, billed as a huge boon for the middle class and a spark to economic growth, provides smaller tax cuts for middle- and low-income families.

The GOP-dominated House voted - a second time - along party lines on Wednesday to approve the complex legislation, following a narrow vote after midnight in the Senate.

The measure slashes the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. The tax cuts for business are permanent, but reductions for individuals and families expire after a decade. The standard deduction used by around two-thirds of Americans will nearly double to $24,000 for married couples.

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12:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump is celebrating the GOP tax legislation, claiming it fulfills his campaign promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Speaking during a Cabinet meeting, he says: "Obamacare has been repealed in this bill."

But the bill only repeals the individual mandate, which imposes a tax penalty for failing to purchase health insurance - a significant, but small part of the law - rather than the extensive legislation passed by his predecessor.

Trump-backed GOP efforts to undo the health care legislation failed repeatedly earlier this year, and congressional lawmakers are debating needed fixes to the bill to stabilize the individual marketplace.

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11:55 a.m.

President Donald Trump is promising a news conference Wednesday afternoon after House Republicans take the final vote to approve the GOP tax cut bill.

Speaking before a Cabinet meeting, Trump calls the expected passage a "historic victory for the American people."

Trump will host Congressional Republicans at the White House to celebrate the first major legislative victory of his administration.

Trump says the official signing ceremony will follow at a later date.

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11:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump is congratulating Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on his work passing the Republican tax bill.

In a tweet Wednesday morning, Trump says McConnell did "a fantastic job both strategically & politically on the passing in the Senate of the MASSIVE TAX CUT & Reform Bill."

He adds: "I could have not asked for a better or more talented partner. Our team will go onto many more VICTORIES!"

The Senate voted early Wednesday to approve the measure, which cuts corporate and individual taxes. The House is expected to pass the legislation a final time Wednesday, sending it to Trump's desk for signature.

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9:55 a.m.

President Donald Trump says the "Fake News" media is "working overtime" to "only demean" tax cuts he's long said will be the biggest in history.

Trump tweeted Wednesday: "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!"

Democrats have criticized the package as a giveaway to corporations and the rich. Republicans argue it will spur economic growth and create jobs.

The Republican-controlled Senate narrowly passed the bill on a party line 51-48 vote after midnight. The House must vote a second time Wednesday due to procedural issues.

Trump plans a White House event with lawmakers following the House action.

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9:40 a.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump will hold an event with lawmakers after the expected passage of a sweeping rewrite of the nation's tax laws.

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump will take part in a "bill passage event" at the White House with members of the House and Senate at 3 p.m.

Sanders said it would not be a signing event. She said "the bill would still need to be enrolled and that will happen at a later date."

The president is eager to claim his first major legislative victory. The Senate narrowly passed the legislation on a party-line 51-48 vote after midnight. The House must vote a second time on Wednesday due to procedural issues.

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7:15 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is acknowledging "nobody knows" if the sweeping tax cuts Congress is enacting will produce enough economic growth to fend off soaring federal deficits.

Making the rounds of morning television news shows, the Wisconsin Republican known as a deficit hawk suggested it's a risk that Republicans are willing to take. He tells NBC's "Today" show America hasn't had a 3 percent annual growth rate since the Great Recession of 2008.

"What we're trying to do here is give relief to hard-working families," Ryan says. "We need fast economic growth. We need help for people living paycheck to paycheck."He says the aim of the $1.5 trillion tax cut is to keep businesses in the United States, saying the relocations overseas "is a trend that has to be reversed."

Asked about estimates that the tax cut could add $1.46 trillion to the national debt over 10 years, he replied, "Nobody knows the answer to that question."

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3:50 a.m.

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.

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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