US Senate barely passes Republican tax bill

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.

The Senate also 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.