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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

December 18, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

National Recap: Republican tax plan passes in Congress

The Senate voted in approval of the new Republican tax plan on Dec. 4, and now both chambers of Congress will vote on whether or not they will go to a conference committee to finalize a version of the bill that will be presented to President Donald Trump.

The tax plan, which originated as a “$1.5 trillion package of cuts to spur hiring and economic growth,” ended up being a bill that lumped in legislation pertaining to abortion and healthcare. The plan also calls for changes in tax brackets, expands the child tax credit, cuts corporate taxes and more.

The plan would also have an impact on graduate students. Graduate students who help with faculty research and teach undergraduate classes at research universities often receive a tuition waiver and a stipend to help with their living expenses. House Republicans have proposed a tax on the value of the tuition waiver — which can be up to $50,000 — as a taxable income for graduate students.

Democrats in the Senate were upset that they received the bill only “a few hours before the vote,” according to Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont). Tester, along with other Senate Democrats, tweeted their grievances the night of the vote. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) tweeted a picture of the bill with handwritten annotations and cross-outs.

“Another page is just a line. Is that a crossout? Is this page part of the bill? WHY AM I ASKING THESE QUESTIONS HOURS BEFORE WE VOTE ON IT??” Menendez said on Twitter.

Trump has weighed in on the tax plan, saying that if it’s voted into effect, it would “give the American people a huge tax cut for Christmas — hopefully that will be a great, big, beautiful Christmas present.” Trump has also promised that the tax plan would result in huge tax cuts for the middle class, but only 44 percent of taxpayers would see their tax bills reduced by more than $500 in 2019, with wealthier Americans benefiting most, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has promised that the new tax plan will pay for itself and help ameliorate the national deficit, but there have been no tax bill analyses conducted yet. A nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation has projected that the bill could add an estimated $1 trillion to the national deficit. Republicans have said that the estimates were wrong, but have not provided any evidence to support that claim.

Meaghan McElroy can be reached at mmcelroy@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @meaghan_mcelroy