Senate Republicans passed a $4 trillion budget resolution Thursday night after a so-called “vote-a-rama” where amendments are considered in quick succession. The vote was 51-49, with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul the only Republican to vote against the plan.
“Tonight we completed the first step toward replacing our broken tax code by passing a comprehensive, fiscally responsible budget that will help put the federal government on a path to balance,” explained Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). “It’s time to take advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity and pass #TaxReform,” he tweeted.
The vote does not guarantee successful tax reform, but it is a crucial first step that Republicans had to clear.
Congress will have to formulate a bipartisan deal later this year to set actual spending levels for FY 2018, so the numbers outlined in the budget are largely irrelevant. The real goal of the budget was to set up the reconciliation process, which allows Senate to pass big financial measures with a majority vote. This is the same process Republicans utilized in their failed attempts to pass healthcare reform.
“This is the last, best chance we will have to cut taxes,” says Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), warning that the failing to pass tax overhaul would be the end of the Republican party. “If you’re a Republican and you don’t want to simplify the tax code and cut taxes, what good are you to anybody?”
The Dems have shown no interest in helping the GOP with its tax plan, which involves broad rate reductions and significant tax breaks for corporations. They argue that Republicans are more interested in a political win on taxes than crafting good legislation and worry about the potential impact on the deficit.
“This is not a bad budget bill. It is a horrific budget bill,” complained Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. “At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, this budget provides $1.9 trillion in tax breaks for the top 1 percent.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the bill “extremely cruel.”
“This nasty and backwards budget green-lights cuts to Medicare and Medicaid in order to give a tax break to big corporations and the wealthiest Americans.”
Some Republicans worry that they won’t have enough time to pass a complete tax overhaul.
“We don’t have to do everything that could possibly be done to improve the tax code this year to take an important step,” insists Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO). “Fights that can’t be won in the next few weeks can be won in this presidential term, but only if we take [this] step successfully right now.”
From here, the bill will go to the House. It is expected to pass without negotiation because “technical changes” were made to the Senate bill after objections were raised in the House.
“This action keeps us on track to enacting historic tax reform that will mean more jobs, fairer taxes, and bigger paychecks for American families,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. “We want Americans to wake up in the New Year with a new tax code, one that is simple and fair.