US President Donald Trump signed Republicans’ massive US$1.5 trillion tax overhaul into law, cementing the biggest legislative victory of his first year in office, and also approved a short-term spending bill that averts a possible government shutdown. Trump said he wanted to sign the tax bill before leaving Washington for his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, rather than stage a more formal ceremony in January, so he could keep his promise to finish work before Christmas.
“I didn’t want you folks to say I wasn’t keeping my promise. I’m keeping my promise,” he told reporters in the White House. The two pieces of legislation represent Trump’s most significant accomplishment with Congress since taking office in January, as well as a sign of what awaits when he returns from Florida after the Christmas holiday.
The tax package, the largest such overhaul since the 1980s, slashes the corporate rate from 35% to 21% and temporarily reduces the tax burden for most individuals as well.
Trump praised several companies that have announced employee bonuses in the wake of the bill’s passage, naming AT&T, Boeing, Wells Fargo, Comcast and Sinclair Broadcast Group.
“Corporations are literally going wild over this,” he said. But Democrats have opposed the bill as a giveaway to the wealthy that would add US$1.5tn to the US$20tn US national debt during the next decade.
The spending bill extends federal funding through January 19, largely at current levels. It does nothing to resolve broader disputes over immigration, healthcare and military spending. Republicans also are divided over whether to follow up their sweeping overhaul of the US tax code with a dramatic restructuring of federal benefit programs.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he would like to revamp welfare and health programs but Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell told National Public Radio that he was not interested in cutting those programs without Democratic support.
Trump’s year also closes with significant turnover of many top staffers who had been in the White House since early in his term. On Friday, the White House confirmed Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn and Jeremy Katz, who worked under White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, were leaving.
The Republican-controlled US Congress on Thursday passed a short-term funding bill to keep the federal government running for four more weeks, averting a looming shutdown. Members of the House of Representatives voted 231-188 for the bill and the Senate followed with a 66 to 32 vote.
The temporary funding extension — which lasts until January 19 — gives more time to lawmakers from both parties to reach an agreement on funding for the remainder of the 2018 fiscal year, which ends September 30.
Opposition Democrats had the numbers to block the Republican bill in the Senate, theoretically giving them the ability to leverage concessions. Some Democratic senators opposed the measure because it did not address the fate of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children — known as “Dreamers” — whose status has been thrown into doubt by President Donald Trump.
But the fact that the Senate majority leader has agreed to put a bill on the status of those immigrants on the floor in January may have encouraged Democrats not to stand in the way of the funding measure.