The US Senate passes its budget, clearing a huge hurdle for Trump's tax plan

Mitch mcconnell donald trumpChip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesSen. Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump.
  • The Senate passed a 2018 budget resolution 51-49.
  • The resolution includes instructions for reconciliation, which would allow Republicans to pass tax reform without support from Democrats.

The Senate passed its fiscal year 2018 budget resolution Thursday, opening the door for the passage of Republican leadership’s massive package to overhaul the tax code.

The resolution passed by a vote of 51-49, with Sen. Rand Paul representing the only Republican defector.

The budget’s passage represents a key step because it contains instructions for the process known as budget reconciliation. Reconciliation will allow Republicans to eventually pass a tax reform bill through the chamber with a simple majority and avoid a Democratic filibuster. This is important since the GOP only holds a slim 52-seat majority.

Since the budget is different from the House’s version, it needs to go back to the lower chamber and receive approval before being enacted.

House and Senate GOP leadership did come to a deal which adjusted the Senate budget at the last minute to try and ensure House conservatives would vote for the Senate version without going through a protracted conference committee.

Among other things, the deal would allow increased defence spending and requires Congress to use dynamic scoring when evaluating a tax proposal. The changes were adopted along party lines.

There was some doubt over the budget — Paul, John McCain, and other Republicans expressed misgivings about some aspects of the resolution. Sen. Bob Corker said that the budget process was a sham since it was only being passed in order to move on to tax reform.

“This is the biggest hoax passed upon the American people ever, that this budget process even exists,” Corker said. “The only thing about this that matters is preparation for tax reform, moving beyond the parliamentary issues that we have to deal with on the Senate side. But other than that, these amendment votes, they’re all — everything about this is a hoax. It’s a hoax.”

Corker eventually voted for the budget and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was ultimately able to garner enough votes to get the bill through the chamber.

The decisions came after a long series of amendments offered by both sides. Republicans shot down additions by Democrats that would have forbidden a tax cut on people in the 1% and another that would prevent a tax increase on people making less than $US250,000 a year.

Democrats immediately slammed the budget, as Republicans cheered the movement toward tax reform. Senate Minority Chuck Schumer has particularly harsh words for the plan.

“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,” Schumer said in a statement. “It shifts the burden from the wealthy and puts it squarely on the back of the middle class, and blows a hole in the deficit to boot.”

McConnell, on the other hand, praised it as a step forward for tax cuts.

“This budget also gives us the tools we need to strengthen our economy after years of stagnation under the previous administration,” McConnell said. “We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to replace a failing tax code that holds Americans back with one that actually works for them.”

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