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What were the last-minute changes to the Senate tax bill?

The Senate passed a $1.5 trillion tax package early Saturday, pushing closer to one of the largest overhauls of the U.S. tax code in decades. But the vote came just hours after the final text of the nearly 500-page bill was released, provoking several, last-minute negotiations on the Senate floor. Lisa Desjardins joins Hari Sreenivasan for more on what made it into the bill and what’s next.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    For more, I'm joined by the NewsHour's Lisa Desjardins. What kinds of last minute changes were necessary to get this legislation across the finish line?

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    There's so many ways to look at this bill. I think if you look at the personalities, who won out, who lost out, and those also correspond to the issues that won and lost. Probably the biggest loser in this was the deficit and the deficit hawks that felt like this bill is spending too much at the risk for future generations, and Bob Corker was the leader of that group. In the end, he could not get any changes to the bill, he couldn't get the trigger that he wanted, the cost of the bill remained the same, and Bob Corker, Hari, ended up being the only Republican no-vote.

    Now who did get changes? I think two of the biggest winners there were Susan Collins of Maine and Ted Cruz of Texas. Susan Collins was able to get into the bill a change that brought back a property tax deduction. The Senate bill completely wiped out all deductions for state and local taxes. Now, the House had included a $10,000 deduction for property taxes, Susan Collins negotiated that back into the Senate bill. She also was able to get an increase and expansion, temporarily, on the medical expensing deductions, something that will especially help people in her state. She has kind of more health problems than average in the state of Maine.

    Alright, Sen. Ted Cruz, what did he get? He was able to keep that deficit trigger out of the bill, he was able to keep the tax structure more or less the same, which is what he wanted, and Hari, late last night Ted Cruz got through one of the final amendments to the bill, which was something that will allow parents of kids K through 12 to use kind of a tax incentive shelter called a 529 which right now is only for college savings. Now in this bill, parents who want to send kids to private high school can use 529s to save at a tax-deductible rate, same for home schooling.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The Democrats were complaining last night that so many of these, the final bill was released hours before the vote. Is that pretty normal?

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    I worry that it's the new normal to be honest, but it hasn't been normal in the past. This was not what happened with the Affordable Care Act. There were some late changes to the Affordable Care Act, but not this late. The text of the Affordable Care Act had been seen for weeks, the bulk of it. In this case, we got a 479-page amendment to the bill, which was in fact the bill itself, it substituted the previous version. We got that publicly at about 9 Eastern time. The vote was just five hours later. Some senators got it a couple hours earlier but the version they got, Hari, was filled with handwriting, things were X'ed out, it was not clear to read it. And again, that was still just six or seven hours before the vote. This is not the way the Senate or the House used to run, but it has become more normal in recent years.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Okay, and this is not the point where it actually goes to the President's desk. there's till a reconciliation between the House version and the Senate version. So are we likely to see any tension there, what are the big differences that are still out there?

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    There are some big differences. For example, in the House bill, they cut all the individual tax rates, what you and I pay, from seven different rates to four. The Senate keeps the seven rates. In addition, the Senate cuts the top tax rate for the wealthiest, the House doesn't. So they have to figure that out. there's also some differences in when the individual tax rate would apply. For the Senate it's just a temporary individual cut that expires in 2025. also the senate brought back something call the alternative minimum tax last night, and that's gonna be a real problem for the House, so they have to work that out among other things. But Hari, I think this deal is gonna get done rather quickly.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. Lisa Desjardins, joining us from Washington today. Thank you so much for your time.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Oh, thanks for having me. You're welcome.

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