Senate Republicans passed a budget late Thursday night, setting the stage for the GOP’s ultimate goal of tackling tax reform later this year.
The measure is estimated to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years, and contains about $4 trillion in spending cuts.
“We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to replace America’s failing tax codes,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor after the bill was approved.
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The Senate’s plan passed along party lines, with 51 Republicans voting in favor of the bill, and all Democrats voting against it.
“This nasty and backwards budget greenlights cuts to Medicare and Medicaid in order to give a tax break to big corporations and the wealthiest Americans,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said.
The 51-49 vote sets the stage for debate later this year to dramatically overhaul the U.S. tax code for the first time in three decades.
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was the lone Republican senator who opposed the measure.
“I could not in good conscience vote for a budget that ignores spending caps that have been the law of the land for years and simply pretend it didn’t matter,” Paul said in a statement.
Following the budget’s passage, the White House released the following statement: “President Donald J. Trump applauds the Senate for passing its FY 2018 Budget Resolution today and taking an important step in advancing the Administration’s pro-growth and pro-jobs legislative agenda. This resolution creates a pathway to unleash the potential of the American economy through tax reform and tax cuts, simplifying the overcomplicated tax code, providing financial relief for families across the country, and making American businesses globally competitive. President Trump looks forward to final enactment of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget resolution so we can bring jobs back to our country.”
And White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted a photo of President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump at a gala dinner benefiting the UNHCR at the Kuwaiti embassy at which the first lady was honored. “Great night honoring @FLOTUS & perfect ending w/ @POTUS announcing passage of budget—major step forward for tax cuts,” Sanders tweeted.
The resolution is a nonbinding budget framework, and is a legislative vehicle that will allow Republicans to pass a tax plan under the rules of reconciliation. This means the GOP tax bill could pass without a single Democratic vote. It also avoids a filibuster attempt by Democrats.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., a member of the Budget Committee, told reporters Thursday afternoon, “This is the biggest hoax hatched upon the American people ever, that this budget process even exists. The only thing about this that matters is preparation for tax reform.”
The Senate opted to fast-track the bill by adopting an amendment that aligned its budget to some technical aspects in the House’s version of the bill, which was approved in the House chamber last week.
The move to align the two plans is intended to help speed up the process in getting final passage from both chambers of Congress, by potentially foregoing a conference committee that would work out the differences in both plans.
Speaking to CBS on Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan affirmed that middle class families would see significant tax cuts.
“When we get the numbers, which are going to be finalized in matter of days, then we can put the whole bill out,” Ryan said. “If this was a tax increase on middle-income taxpayers, we wouldn’t be doing this. This is about lowering people’s taxes in the middle-class, simplifying the tax system and growing this economy.”
Before the Senate passed its bill Thursday night, lawmakers agreed to a bipartisan amendment that called the entire budget voting process “utter nonsense.”
Schumer said it would go down “as one of the worst budgets Congress has ever passed” in the nation’s history.