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Wednesday December 11th, 2019 10:03AM

The Latest: Trump takes victory lap in New York

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the GOP tax bill (all times local):

11:15 a.m.

President Donald Trump is taking a victory lap at a New York City fundraiser, praising the Senate's passage of a sweeping tax overhaul.

The president is noting that Republicans had enough support to pass the bill without needing Vice President Mike Pence. He says the fact that no Democrats voted for the bill will "cost them very big" in the next election.

Trump is raising $6 million during a series of political fundraisers in New York on Saturday.

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10:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump is expressing thanks to Senate and House Republicans for their hard-fought victories on taxes. The Senate passed its legislation early Saturday, and now that chamber and the House must try to reconcile differences in their two versions. It's shaping up to be the largest tax overhaul in three decades, and Trump says he aims to sign it into law before Christmas.

The Senate bill gives most of its tax breaks to businesses and high-earners. Altogether, the vote was a big step toward giving Trump his first major legislative triumph after months of false starts and frustration.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is shrugging off polls that find scant public enthusiasm for the measure. He says in an interview it will prove its worth and get the country "growing again."

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1:51 a.m.

The Senate has passed a nearly $1.5 trillion Republican tax bill that's historic in scope and an urgent political priority for President Donald Trump and the GOP.

The vote was 51-49, largely along party lines. Not a single Democrat voted in favor of the legislation, which was crafted behind closed doors by Senate Republican leaders. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, who calls the growing debt a national security threat, joined Democrats in opposing the bill.

The bill lays the bulk of its tax cuts on businesses and higher-earning individuals and gives more modest breaks to others.

It would bring the first major overhaul of the U.S. tax system in three decades. The measure must be reconciled with a version the House passed last month.

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1:35 a.m.

The Senate has voted to eliminate a tax break for a politically-connected conservative college in Michigan.

Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon proposed the amendment to eliminate the tax break for Hillsdale College in southern Michigan. He noted that Hillsdale has connections to powerful Republicans, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Merkley says, "Isn't that just the type of insider deal for the wealthy and well-connected that we should oppose?"

The Senate Republicans' sweeping tax package would impose a new tax on investment income earned by some private universities and colleges.

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania added a provision exempting certain colleges that don't receive federal funds. Democrats say Hillsdale was the only college that would benefit.

Merkley's amendment was adopted by a 52-48 vote.

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1:20 a.m.

The Senate has given a green light to opening Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

In a vote early Saturday morning, Republicans rejected an effort led by Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state to block drilling.

The vote was 52-48. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has pushed for oil and gas drilling in the refuge.

Opening the remote refuge to oil and gas drilling is a longtime Republican priority that most Democrats fiercely oppose.

The 19.6-million acre refuge in northeastern Alaska is one of the most pristine areas in the United States and is home to polar bears, caribou, migratory birds and other wildlife.

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12:20 a.m.

The Senate has adopted an amendment that would allow parents to use 529 college funds to pay private school tuition for students in kindergarten through high school.

Parents could also use the tax-exempt funds on home-schooling expenses.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas offered the amendment to Senate Republicans' sweeping tax package. The vote was a 50-50 tie with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaker.

All Senate Democrats opposed the measure. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were the only Republicans who voted against it.

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8:20 p.m.

Democrats have taken to the Senate floor to attack a planned amendment to the tax bill that would give a break to a conservative college in Michigan.

Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Patrick Toomey acknowledged he'd sponsored the language and said Hillsdale College would benefit from it.

Toomey defended Hillsdale as "a wonderful institution" and said other schools might qualify for the tax break, too. His provision would shield schools that receive no federal aid from language in the bill that taxes the investment income of some colleges and universities.

Democrats say Toomey's provision was written in a way that only Hillsdale would qualify for the reduction. They complain that some well-known conservatives have connections to the school, including Trump administration Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

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8 p.m.

As the Senate nears a momentous vote on the massive Republican tax bill, Democrats are mocking what they say is the late-provided, hefty text of the legislation in videos and tweets.

They're displaying the nearly 500 printed pages with handwritten notes in the margins.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts tweets, "No, I haven't had time to read the 500-page #GOPTaxScam bill that we're voting on tonight," with a photo of her reading aloud from pages at her desk. "Couldn't read it if I tried — and I did."

Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana says "one page literally has hand-scribbled policy changes on it that can't be read. This is Washington, D.C. at its worst. Montanans deserve so much better."

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5:10 p.m.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker has become the only Republican senator to say he will vote against his party's $1.4 trillion tax bill.

His decision won't affect the measure's fate. GOP leaders have already said they have enough votes to push the legislation through the Senate in a vote they hope will come later Friday.

Corker's decision is not a surprise. He had expressed concerns that the measure would add more red ink to the government's $20 trillion in accumulated debt. He said Friday he doesn't want to burden future generations.

Corker has broken openly with President Donald Trump, questioning his stability and warning he might cause World War III.

Corker says he told Trump of his decision, and isn't ruling out backing a compromise House-Senate tax bill.

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4:45 p.m.

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins has become the latest GOP holdout to say she'll vote for the tax bill her party is set to push through the Senate.

The moderate Collins says she believes the measure will provide "much-needed tax relief" to middle-class families and spur economic growth.

Her announcement lacked suspense because GOP leaders have already said they have enough votes for passage, which they hope will occur later Friday.

Earlier this year, Collins was among a group of Republican senators who bucked the party and helped derail their effort to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law.

Collins says she decided to back the tax bill after leaders agreed to let taxpayers deduct up to $10,000 in local property taxes and make other changes.

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4:15 p.m.

Senate Republicans are steaming toward passage of a $1.4 trillion tax bill, overcoming eleventh-hour hitches in their drive to deliver a major legislative accomplishment to President Donald Trump by Christmas.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republicans "have the votes."

One prior holdout, Jeff Flake of Arizona, announced he would support the bill. Another, Susan Collins of-Maine, said on Twitter she was "delighted" she'd won an agreement from leaders to add a $10,000 deduction for local property taxes and was considered all but certain to back the measure.

With the party controlling the Senate 52-48 and Democrats uniformly opposed, Republicans need 50 votes to win approval for the bill. Vice President Mike Pence would break a tie.

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1:10 p.m.

Republican leaders have made changes to the tax bill to win enough votes to clear the Senate. A summary obtained by The Associated Press shows the changes include allowing local property tax deductions up to $10,000 and fatter breaks for many businesses.

The original Senate bill wouldn't have allowed the property tax deductions. The change was a key demand of Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins.

There would also be lower taxes on companies with owners that pay individual tax rates on profits, and a more gradual elimination of tax breaks for firms buying equipment.

To pay for these changes, the new plan doesn't fully repeal the alternative minimum tax on high-income families. And it would increase a one-time tax on profits held overseas by U.S.-based corporations.

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12:05 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says "we have the votes" to pass the GOP tax bill.

McConnell talked to reporters after a closed-door meeting of Republican senators.

One prior hold out, Sen. Susan Collins, says she won an agreement to add a deduction for local property taxes. The Maine Republican had been withholding her support for the bill because she wanted homeowners to be able to deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes.

The original Senate bill had completely eliminated the tax deduction for state and local taxes.

Still, Collins was coy about whether she would ultimately vote for the bill.

Smiling, Collins said, "I'm pleased with the progress that's being made but I'll announce my position in a couple of hours."

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10:35 a.m.

The No. 2 Republican in the Senate says the GOP has the votes to pass a sweeping tax overhaul.

That's the word on Friday from Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who told reporters, "We're confident in the 50 and we'd like to build on that."

Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority, but with 50 votes — and Vice President Mike Pence breaking a tie — they can muscle their legislation through the Senate.

Cornyn made the comments after Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson said he had won concessions for businesses and would support the legislation.

The sweeping tax overhaul would slash the corporate tax rate and ease some taxes on individuals.

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9:35 a.m.

A key Republican, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, says he's backing the sweeping GOP tax bill. That's according to an aide.

Johnson's support for the legislation is a major boost for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as he tries to muscle the measure through the Senate.

GOP leaders hope to vote on Friday and send the measure to a House-Senate conference to work out the differences. They want to deliver a bill to President Donald Trump by Christmas.

In a radio interview with WISN in Wisconsin, Johnson said he secured changes in the bill on the taxes paid by businesses and is now a yes on the legislation.

At issue were millions of businesses whose owners report the firm's profits on their individual tax returns. The vast majority of U.S. businesses are taxed this way.

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6:55 a.m.

President Donald Trump says the Republican tax bill "is getting better and better."

In an early morning Friday tweet, Trump wrote: "This is a once in a generation chance. Obstructionist Dems trying to block because they think it is too good and will not be given the credit!"

Republicans are eyeing a crucial final vote Friday on the $1.4 trillion Senate bill. GOP leaders have been making major changes up to the last minute, including one that would roll back some of the tax cuts after six years to appease deficit hawks.

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3:50 a.m.

Senate Republicans are stepping quickly to meet competing demands of holdout GOP senators for a tax overhaul package expected to add $1 trillion to the nation's deficit over 10 years.

GOP leaders have been making major changes up to the last minute, including one that would roll back some of the tax cuts after six years to appease deficit hawks.

Republicans eyeing a crucial final vote Friday on the $1.4 trillion Senate bill.

The overall legislation would bring the first overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 31 years. It would slash the corporate tax rate, offer more modest cuts for families and individuals and eliminate several popular deductions.

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