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What Has To Happen For The Senate Tax Bill To Become Law

Dec 2, 2017
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now to the Senate's tax bill, which narrowly passed in the early hours of this morning. The passage of the $1.4 trillion legislation moved Republicans one step closer to getting the bill done before the end of the year. But as NPR's Brakkton Booker reports, there's still quite a bit of work to do before the bill can become law.

BRAKKTON BOOKER, BYLINE: The vote followed a day of marathon deal cutting and furious rewrites, including some last-minute changes handwritten onto the margins. Speaking to reporters shortly after 2 in the morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hailed it as a great day for the country.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: It's been 31 years since we've done comprehensive tax reform. We have an opportunity now to make America more competitive and provide substantial relief to the middle class.

BOOKER: President Trump also took a victory lap while giving remarks earlier today in New York.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So last night, we passed, in the history of the country, the largest tax cuts and reform.

BOOKER: Most tax experts disagree with the president that this is the biggest cut ever. But the truth is we just don't know for sure. That's because there's still work to be done before the bill can become law, as Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska acknowledged to reporters.

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LISA MURKOWSKI: We recognize that we still have a little bit of process yet to go to get this over the finish line, but this is truly a win for America.

BOOKER: But in order to get the bill ready for the president's signature, as you may recall from your grammar school civics lessons, a Senate version and a House version must match. Roberton Williams is a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center at Brookings.

ROBERTON WILLIAMS: The normal way this occurs is each House will name members to the conference committee, which will then meet and negotiate aspects of the final bill.

BOOKER: There are some big differences between the one the Senate passed this morning and what the House passed in mid-November. For one thing, the Affordable Care Act mandate that requires everyone to buy health insurance - the House version ignores it. The Senate one cancels the mandate out. Again, Roberton Williams.

WILLIAMS: The big unknown is we don't know how long it will take the conference committee to come up with an agreement on a bill.

BOOKER: He points out that even after the conference committee agrees on the changes, the House and Senate each have to vote again on the final version.

WILLIAMS: There's a lot of pressure to get something done very fast, whether it will happen remains to be seen.

BOOKER: President Trump said he wants the tax bill on his desk by Christmas. The House is set to vote to conference with the Senate on Monday. Brakkton Booker, NPR News, Washington.

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