President Donald Trump promised everyday Americans a “giant tax cut for Christmas” in a speech that the White House billed as his closing argument for a tax overhaul that congressional Republicans finished negotiating on Wednesday.
“When I say giant, I mean giant,” Trump said in a televised speech from the White House. “As we speak, Congress has reached an agreement on tax legislation that will deliver more jobs, higher wages and massive tax relief for American families and for American companies.”
Trump said that a “typical” family of four earning $75,000 would see a tax cut of more than $2,000 under the legislation, “slashing their tax bill in half.” The White House didn’t provide an analysis backing up the claim.
Trump invited several families to the White House to serve as real-life examples of the benefits of the plan. They thanked Trump and briefly explained how they would use the proceeds of a tax cut—home renovations, in at least two cases.
“It’s critically important for Congress to quickly pass these historic tax cuts,” Trump said. “If Congress sends me a bill before Christmas—this is breaking news—the IRS has just confirmed that Americans will see lower taxes and bigger paychecks beginning in February.”
Republican lawmakers reached a deal in principle on the legislation earlier on Wednesday, a person familiar with the matter said. But the bill’s advance is clouded by the result of the Senate special election in Alabama, where Trump suffered an embarrassment on Tuesday after the candidate he backed, Republican Roy Moore, lost to a Democrat.
The Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, on Wednesday called for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to delay a vote on the tax bill until Doug Jones, the Democrat who defeated Moore, is seated. That would reduce the GOP’s majority in the Senate to 51-49.
Just before Trump spoke, Democrats kicked off the first open meeting of a House-Senate panel that’s officially charged with approving the compromise by calling for a delay in any action on taxes until Jones is sworn-in. That wouldn’t happen until later this month or in early January.
“I do not believe we should be holding this meeting,” said Representative Richard Neal of Massachusetts, the senior Democrat on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. “It’s imperative we respect the will of the people of Alabama and delay any action until Mr. Jones can be seated.”
Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas, a Republican, rejected the request and said the tax effort would continue.
Instead, Republicans hope to vote on the bill in the next week while they wait for Alabama officials to certify the result of the election, and while they can still afford two defections by Senate Republicans. That would provide Trump, who has yet to sign a major piece of legislation, a much-needed political victory—even though polls show the legislation is unpopular among most Americans because independent analyses have shown it would mainly benefit the wealthy.
Trump said earlier at the White House that he hopes to sign the bill “in a very short period of time” and that it’s “very important for the country” that Congress vote on it next week.
The compromise bill is expected to set the U.S. corporate income tax rate at 21 percent, effective in 2018, according to a Republican official who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. The top federal corporate rate is now 35 percent, and Trump had insisted it should be no higher than 20 percent, but gave ground on that position earlier this month.
Trump said Wednesday that he’d support a 21 percent rate.
“I would,” Trump said while having lunch with Republicans on the conference committee. “We’re going to see where it ends up but I said that already. It’s at 35 right now so if it got down to 21 I would certainly, I would be thrilled.”
“We haven’t set that final figure yet, certainly 21 is a very great success,” he added.
“I’m just very excited by” the bill, he said. “This is one of the biggest pieces of legislation ever signed by this country.”
Lawmakers are also leaning toward keeping the estate tax, the official said. Both chambers called for doubling exemption limits for the tax, but the House bill calls for its full repeal in 2025. Negotiators are also planning to set a top individual tax rate of 37 percent—a reduction from the current 39.6 percent and a lower rate for high-income filers than in either the Senate of House versions of the overhaul, according to the official. The mortgage deduction limit would drop to $750,000 from the current $1 million, according to the official.
—With assistance from Steven T. Dennis and Sahil Kapur