WASHINGTON – President Trump enthusiastically declared victory on Wednesday after Republicans in Congress passed a massive tax bill that will affect almost every American household, handing him the first major legislative achievement of his 11-month-old presidency.
"It's always a lot of fun when you win," Trump told Republican lawmakers at a pep rally-like event on the South lawn of the White House. "We broke every record," he said, referring to the size of the tax cuts Trump is calling a "Christmas present" to the American people.
Trump had been pushing Republicans hard to pass the tax bill before the end of the year. Having failed to repeal and replace President Obama's health care law, Trump invited Republicans over to the White House to trumpet the passage of the tax bill.
After the sweeping tax overhaul passed along a straight party line in both chambers of Congress, Trump said "companies are going to be coming back" to the U.S. Repeating his 2016 campaign slogan, Trump said "we are making American great again. "
According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the largest cuts as a share of income will go to taxpayers in the 95th to 99th percentiles of all earners. In 2018, taxes would be reduced by about $1,600 on average, while the plan is projected to add more than $1 trillion to the national debt over the next decade.
While Trump says the tax cuts will spur investment, not a single congressional Democrat voted for them, a historic break from previous major U.S. tax packages.
There is significant skepticism among Democrats that U.S. corporations, already flush with cash, will reinvest the money instead of using it to buy back shares to drive up stock prices. Democrats are also pointing to promises by Republicans to proceed with major cuts to U.S. safety net programs in the new year.
Democrats have also warned that the loss of deductions will actually raise taxes for people in some high-tax states like New York and California that vote overwhelmingly Democratic.
The White House celebration came one day after parents from across the country came to Congress to plead for renewal of the Children's Health Insurance Program, which insures nearly nine million poor children, as more and more states are running out of money. For nearly two decades, the program has had bipartisan support.
The White House rally quickly became a Republican love fest. "You're living up to everything I thought you would," Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, told Trump.
Trump in turn praised numerous Republicans, including two he has previously clashed with over legislative strategy during his turbulent first year in office: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Trump dispatched with formalities and called lawmakers by their first names, even patting them on the back.
As a candidate Trump ran against official Washington and was particularly scornful of "establishment" leaders such as Ryan and McConnell for pursuing policies that haven't helping the interests of working-class Americans across the nation. On Wednesday, he paid tribute to and congratulated them on the hard-fought victory.
"They've been working on this for years ... years and years," Trump said. Earlier Wednesday, Trump tweeted that McConnell did a "fantastic job" and said "I could have not asked for a better or more talented partner."
Yet at a Cabinet meeting hours earlier, Trump bashed congressional Democrats who called the tax plan a giveaway to the wealthy.
"We got it done," Trump said, while Democrats "like to complain, but they don’t get it done, unfortunately."
Trump dismissed criticism from Democrats and what he perceived as unfair news coverage earlier Wednesday on Twitter, accusing the media of "working overtime to follow the lead of their friends, the defeated Dems, and only demean" the substance of the bill.
Down the line, the White House will schedule a formal signing ceremony of the tax cut bill that includes changes to the health care law.
Trump also on Wednesday promoted what he considers the key accomplishments of his first year on the job. During his Cabinet meeting, Trump cited his immigration, economic, and anti-regulation agenda, and said that “we have done a job like no other administration.” And at the White House, Trump also noted that the tax bill includes a provision allowing oil drilling in the Alaskan wilderness.
The president and GOP allies hope success on taxes will lead to wins on a 2018 domestic agenda that includes an infrastructure plan, a bigger crackdown on immigration, and welfare reform as well another attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. “Next year, we’re going to go on some amazing things,” Trump said.
The tax bill includes one key health care provision: Eliminating the individual mandate that requires Americans to purchase some form of health insurance.
During his Cabinet meeting, Trump said that eliminating the individual mandate amounts to a repeal of Obamacare: “When the individual mandate is being repealed that means Obamacare is being repealed ... we have essentially repealed Obamacare and we will come up with something much better."
Yet critics say eliminating the mandate will raise the costs for everybody else. The Congressional Budget Office says the change will lead to 13 million fewer people having health insurance 10 years from now.