2 Dec 2017

Trump a step closer to slashing taxes for businesses

11:22 pm on 2 December 2017

The United States Senate has passed a sweeping tax reform bill, clearing the way for the first big legislative achievement of Donald Trump's presidency.

US President Donald Trump declared North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism.

US President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP

The final bill was passed 51 to 49 in favour in the early hours of the morning, following a series of amendments in a marathon session.

The plan - the biggest US tax overhaul since the 1980s - includes a sharp cut in corporation tax.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the bill directed the lion's share of its benefits to those at the very top, the already wealthy and the already powerful.

And he warned the measures will endanger social security and medical provision.

Democrats said the bill will also add to the US deficit.

Republican leaders said the tax cuts would encourage US companies to invest more, and boost economic growth.

And the Republican senate leader, Mitch McConnell, brushed aside suggestions the legislation was pushed through without proper scrutiny.

"This was done through the regular order, the Democrats had plenty of notice, multiple hearings, mark-ups, open amendment process, everybody had plenty of opportunity to see the measure. You complain about process when you're loosing and that's what you heard on the floor tonight."

The bill now has to be reconciled with a plan approved last month by the US House of Representatives before it can be signed into law by the president.

Mr Trump wants that to happen by the end of the year.

Blow to Obamacare

The sweeping changes contains the Republicans' biggest blow yet to the former President Barack Obama's healthcare law - repealing the requirement that all Americans obtain health insurance.

The individual mandate is meant to ensure health insurance markets remain viable, by forcing younger and healthier Americans to buy coverage.

Republican lawmakers failed this year to scrap the mandate as part of a broader repeal of Obamacare, blocked by some of its own senators, including Susan Collins of Maine.

But she said she voted for the tax bill tonight after being assured Republican leaders will support legislation to prop up the health insurance markets.

Last month, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said without the individual mandate, in 10 years, 13 million people will no longer be able to afford their health insurance premiums.

Insurers and leading medical groups have urged Congress to keep the mandate in place.

- BBC / Reuters