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Tax train poised to leave the station as GOP bigs rejoice

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is joined

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is joined by House Republican leaders on Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 19, 2017, after they passed a tax cut bill. Credit: Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla

Casting the tax die

Deep divisions over the sweeping new national tax measure showed no signs of abating Tuesday even as Congress stayed on track to approve it.

“This really is a generational, defining moment,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) before its 227-203 approval vote. “This is our chance, this is our moment.”

The moment is expected to be repeated in the House on Wednesday, however. The do-over results from a technical hitch involving the Senate, which modified and approved the measure 51-48 early Wednesday, after hours of praise on the floor from Republicans and warnings from Democrats.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) blasted the bill as a “GOP tax scam” and a “brazen con job.” It is another tale of two perceptions, one shaded blue and the other red.

Supporters hail it as great relief for the middle class, helpful for corporations and jobs, and a first victory for Republicans’ ability to steer business under President Donald Trump.

Even before it was fully drafted, Trump called it a “big, beautiful Christmas present” for Americans.

Critics will continue to pan the law as an enormous handout for the rich that slams blue states like New York, as polls show it to be widely unpopular across the U.S.

See coverage by Tom Brune for Newsday.

Executive privilege

For the first time, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged Trump could benefit from some business provisions in the bill heading for his desk as early as this week.

Trump has denied it, saying he’d be a “big loser” under its terms.

“In some ways, particularly on the personal side, the president will likely take a big hit,” Sanders said during a White House press briefing. “But on the business side, he could benefit.”

Nobody can check what’s true, of course, since he’s the first president in a generation to decline to release his taxes. Questions also hover around the benefit for family members. A big windfall was added for real estate developers late in the negotiation process, according to Bloomberg News.

The empires talk back

China and Russia reacted with negative statements to Trump’s description of them on Monday as power rivals that threaten American economic strength.

Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said: “No country or report will succeed in distorting facts or deploying malicious slander. We urge the U.S. side to stop intentionally distorting China’s strategic intentions and to abandon outdated ideas of Cold War mentality and the zero-sum game.”

Russia attacked the “imperialist character” of the president’s new written security strategy, with its spokesmen saying the nation “cannot accept” Trump’s hostile characterization.

What else is happening

  • Trump tweeted after Monday’s fatal Washington state train derailment about his future infrastructure plan. But he has sought Amtrak cuts — and speed, not deterioration, looks like the cause.
  • Long Island Republican Reps. Peter King and Lee Zeldin voted, as expected, against the tax bill, citing its dramatic shrinkage of state and local tax deductions.
  • Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert pointed the finger at North Korea for a “careless and reckless” ransomware attack in May that infected hundreds of thousands of computers.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency is canceling a $120,000 “media tracking” contract with a Republican PR and opposition-research firm, The Washington Post reports.

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