President Trump on Saturday hailed the passage of a sweeping tax reform bill through the Senate in the early hours of the morning, calling it “one of the big nights” and predicting Democratic opposition would “cost them very big” in midterm elections next year.
Critics warned, however, that the bill was a shameless giveaway to lobbyists, corporations and the wealthy that would hurt ordinary Americans and push up the national debt.
After nine months of stumbles and setbacks, the vote put Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress on the verge of their first major legislative victory.
The first major overhaul of America’s tax code in more than 30 years will pave the way for a $1.5tn reduction in tax bills, permanently slash the corporate tax rate by nearly half, to 20% from 35%, and also offer temporary cuts to individual tax rates.
Congress’s own analysts say it will come at huge cost to the public purse, adding around $1tn to the national deficit. But Republicans who for years have demanded fiscal restraint rejected those numbers to push the bill through.
The New York Times was utterly damning in an editorial, describing the bill as a “looting of the public purse by corporations and the wealthy”, which it said showed that “Republican leaders’ primary goal is to enrich the country’s elite at the expense of everybody else, including future generations who will end up bearing the cost”.
The bill also tacked on some highly controversial Republican goals, including opening the Arctic national wildlife refuge to drilling for oil, and is widely seen as a backdoor attack on the Affordable Care Act.
It ends one of the key provisions of the ACA, the personal mandate, which forces healthy Americans to buy health insurance or face tax penalties. Without it insurers face a pool of older, more vulnerable customers, and the resulting rise in premiums is expected to mean 13 million Americans will lose health coverage within a decade.
The bill was hurried through the Senate in the early hours of Saturday, without even time for opposition senators to read it, much less for analysts to cost out the last-minute changes needed to secure the slim 51-49 majority that passed it.
“The Republicans have managed to take a bad bill and make it worse,” said the…