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News Analysis: Can U.S. Republicans pass tax overhaul?
From:Xinhua  |  2017-11-20 04:51

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U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at the Capitol to deliver remarks about tax reform in Washington D.C. Nov 16, 2017. (Xinhua/Ting Shen)

by Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump and congressional Republican leaders are pushing a major tax overhaul through Congress, but it remains unknown whether it will pass, amid a GOP split and rivalry with Democrats.

On Thursday, the GOP-led House of Representatives passed the most sweeping tax overhaul in decades, a major step forward toward the ultimate passage of a major tax revamp, which would provide over a trillion U.S. dollars in tax cuts to companies and individuals.

But not all Republicans are on board, as some in the GOP believe the legislation is tilted too far in favor of large over small corporations, and others believe that a repeal of the current healthcare laws should be included in the tax legislation. That begs the question of whether the bill can be passed by Republicans alone.

"The bill can pass without Democratic support as long as Republicans stay united," Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua. "The challenge is that Senate Republicans are not completely united at this point."

Moreover, there are feuds between Trump and some GOP lawmakers, such as the one between the president and Senator John McCain, one of the most powerful members of the party.

Tensions began to simmer in September, when McCain, who was the Republican nominee for the 2008 U.S. presidential election, refused to back Trump's healthcare legislation, which would have repealed and replaced the previous administration's healthcare overhaul, known as Obamacare. As a result, Trump's legislation derailed.

Now, the stakes are high for the White House to pass some of the major legislation that Trump promised to pass while on the campaign trail. Failure to do so could mean trouble for the GOP-led Congress when voters head to the ballot box in the 2018 congressional elections.

At the same time as GOP divisions, experts say the vast majority of Democrats are unlikely to back the bill.

"The legislation is unlikely to attract Democratic votes because it provides much more tax relief for the wealthy versus the middle class. That is simply unacceptable to many Democrats," West said.

Alan Viard, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told Xinhua: "If it doesn't pass without Democrats' support, it probably won't pass ... it's not clear that any Democrats will support it."

"It's not clear that the Republicans can get any Democrats on board. Providing additional tax cuts to the middle class, and scaling back the high-income tax cuts, might get a few Democrats on board, but that's far from certain," he said.

Dan Mahaffee, senior vice president and director of policy at the Center for the Study of Congress and the Presidency, echoed those thoughts, saying "there is little likelihood of any Democrats supporting it in its current form."

"The bill has been written by GOP committees without input from Democrats, and to get Democrats on board would likely require a significant rewriting of complex legislation," he said.

"There are already GOP Senators expressing their concerns about the current structure of the bill. If there were to be a compromise, there is no way that it could meet the quick time frame that is the GOP goal for getting tax reform to President Trump' s desk," Mahaffee said.

Trump and Republican leaders in recent months have vowed to pass the tax bill by the end of the year to overhaul what they call an outdated tax system, in a bid to make U.S. companies more competitive.

While critics call it a tax break for the wealthy, the White House says the bill's follow-on effect will be to boost the U.S. economy and create jobs.

While U.S. economic growth has picked up somewhat in recent quarters, the president wants to push it higher. Trump would also like to provide incentive for U.S. corporations to return home, at a time when around 3 trillion U.S. dollars in profits are accumulated overseas by American companies.

Analysts said the stakes of tax reform are high, as failure to pass tax legislation could cost Republican Party control of Congress, and that would derail the businessman-turned-politician's presidency.