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'Largest tax cut in history': Trump declares victory after Congress passes landmark bill


US President Donald Trump has had his first major legislative achievement since taking office, with a massive Republican tax cut plan passing Congress.

A jubilant Donald Trump hosted Republican lawmakers at the White House for a victory lap after the US Congress passed a sweeping tax cut plan, declaring: "We are making America great again."

"We broke every record," the president told the scores of lawmakers assembled on the South Lawn of the White House, thanking congressional leaders for driving through what he called "the largest tax cut in the history of our country".

Mr Trump went on to shower compliments on the Republicans present, in a melee of smiles and handshakes, singling out Congressman Steve Scalise who was seriously injured in a shooting earlier this year.

"He had a rougher year than most of us," Mr Trump quipped.

"But it's a hell of a way to lose weight, Steve. Not a good way. We love you, Steve."

Mr Trump then handed the floor to a succession of Republicans, who took turns singing his praises.

Setting the tone, House Speaker Paul Ryan credited Mr Trump's "exquisite presidential leadership" for the success of the contentious plan, assailed by Democrats as a giveaway to the wealthiest that risks blowing a hole in the national debt.

And Vice President Mike Pence doubled down with a superlative description of the president's accomplishments - including a tax cut he described as "a middle-class miracle".

"President Donald Trump is a man of his word. He's a man of action," Mr Pence said.

"With the strong support of these members of congress, President Donald Trump delivered, a great victory for the American people."

Sweeping changes to tax

The House voted along party lines to greenlight a $1.5 trillion overhaul that will impact every corner of the US economy through dramatic tax cuts for corporations and temporary reductions for individuals.

"I promised the American people a big, beautiful tax cut for Christmas," Mr Trump said in a statement following the bill's adoption. "With final passage of this legislation, that is exactly what they are getting."

The most sweeping rewrite of the US tax code in decades, one that has taken months to get across the line, took a day longer after a technical glitch required the Senate to strip three minor provisions from the bill before approving it overnight.

Since the House had already voted - and the versions approved by both chambers must be identical - it was forced to vote again on the changes. The bill passed the House 224 to 201, with 12 Republicans siding with all Democrats in voting no.

US Demcrats slam GOP tax bill.
US Demcrats slam GOP tax bill.

Eyeing the most important legislative victory in the 11 months since his inauguration - after the stinging failure to repeal his predecessor's health care law - Trump had demanded the bill reach his desk by Christmas.

As the vote got underway in the House, Trump gathered his cabinet members to deliver a celebratory address, that concluded with them bowing their heads as Housing Secretary Ben Carson offered a prayer for "unity"... so that people recognize that we have a nation that is worth saving".

Mr Trump had leaned heavily on Republicans to push the deeply contentious package through Congress. Republicans hope it plays to their advantage in next year's mid-term elections.

But it appears unpopular - a CNN poll shows that 55 per cent of Americans oppose the tax plan, widely criticised as favoring wealthy people over the middle class.

Republicans pushed back at that notion, with Mr Ryan predicting that Americans would be won over once they start to reap the benefits next year.

"The average tax payer in every income group is getting a tax cut," Mr Ryan told ABC News.

"I think minds are going to change and I think people are going to change their view on this."

'Nobody knows'

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is projected to add nearly $1.5 trillion to the national debt over the coming decade, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

That figure drops to about $1 trillion when economic growth is accounted for.

Mr Ryan stated that a median-income family of four earning $73,000 annually would save $2,059 in taxes next year.

But he could not say whether the plan will generate enough economic growth to match costs of the deficit increase.

"Nobody knows the answer to that question because that's in the future," Ryan told NBC.

The Democratic opposition has denounced the measure as mostly benefiting companies and the wealthiest Americans - including Mr Trump himself - and warns it risks blowing a hole in the national debt, which has surged past $20 trillion.

Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi called the bill a "moral obscenity".

Under the legislation, the federal corporate tax rate would fall from 35 per cent to 21 per cent, and the maximum individual income tax rate, for the nation's wealthiest, would drop from 39.6 percent to 37 per cent.

While Republicans failed earlier this year to repeal Obamacare, the tax plan takes a key step in that regard, by scrapping the individual mandate that requires nearly all Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine.

"With this bill ... we have essentially repealed Obamacare and we will come up with something that's much better," Trump said.

Democrats warn repealing the crucial provision will cause health care costs to rise and 13 million fewer people will have health insurance in the next decade.

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