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Republican Tax Bill Clears Senate

Republicans in the Senate passed their tax reform legislation on Friday, on a 51-49 vote.

If signed into law, the legislation would dramatically change the United States tax code. It would lower the corporate tax rate to 20 percent (from 35 percent), change the manner in which pass-through businesses are taxed, shift the country to a territorial tax system, lower individual tax rates for some Americans (although only temporarily), and add about $1 trillion to the federal deficit (even after accounting for economic growth).

While Friday's vote represents a meaningful victory for the GOP, the bill's ultimate passage is still far from assured. The legislation will now go to conference, where the substantial differences between the House of Representatives and Senate versions must be resolved; both the House and Senate must pass the conference version of the legislation before President Donald Trump can sign it into law.

"After weeks of fighting for Main Street businesses including Montana's farmers and ranchers, I've decided to support the Senate tax cut bill, which provides significant tax relief for Main Street businesses," Senator Steve Daines (R-Montana), who initially opposed the bill, said in a statement Friday morning.

There also appear to be several senators whose ultimate support for the final legislation is likely in doubt if significant changes are made in conference. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) won a number of concessions in exchange for her vote, including the last-minute addition of a limited SALT deduction and an expansion of the medical expenses deduction (the House version of the bill eliminates that deduction entirely). Her support, however, is also reportedly dependent on Congress first passing two bills to stabilize the Affordable Care Act's non-group markets. Conservatives in the House have expressed reservations about those bills. Likewise, Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) announced his support for the bill after obtaining "a commitment" from Senate leadership and the Trump administration to work with him on a fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, although no timeline for this fix was promised.

Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) voted against it; no Democrats supported the measure.

Corker's opposition was driven by concerns about the legislation's effect on the federal deficit.

"This is yet another tough vote," Corker said earlier on Friday, when announcing he would not vote for the legislation. "I am disappointed. I wanted to get to yes. But at the end of the day, I am not able to cast aside my fiscal concerns and vote for legislation that I believe, based on the information I currently have, could deepen the debt burden on future generations."