The Senate approved the $1.5 trillion tax bill, which includes permanent tax breaks for corporations and temporary tax cuts for individuals, by a final vote of 51-48. Once enacted, the legislation will represent the most drastic changes to the US tax code since 1986.
The bill was passed along party lines, with every Senate Republican present voting in its favor and all Democrats voting against it. Arizona senator John McCain, who is undergoing treatment for brain cancer, was the lone member to be absent for the vote.
Although the bill’s passage was expected, tensions boiled to a surface as the final vote was held, as Democrats sharply criticized Republicans for a bill independent analysts have projected will disproportionately benefit the wealthy and corporations.
The legislation must go back to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Wednesday for final approval, but is expected to pass.
The bill lowers the top individual tax rate from 39.6% to 37% and slashes the corporate tax rate to 21%, a dramatic fall from its current rate of 35%.
In remarks on the Senate floor, Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said Republicans would “rue the day” when they passed the bill, which he blasted as a “disgrace”. A visibly frustrated Schumer then chastised Republicans for talking during his speech.
“This is serious stuff. We believe you’re messing up America,” Schumer, a Democrat from New York, told Republicans. “You could pay attention for a couple of minutes.”
As the vote occurred, activists in the press gallery shouted “Kill the bill, don’t kill us”. The chaotic proceedings were eventually called to order by vice president Mike Pence, who was presiding over the chamber for what will soon mark a rare but significant achievement for the Trump administration.