All three Miami Republicans in the House of Representatives voted Thursday in favor of a $1.5 trillion plan to overhaul the nation’s tax code, though one of them called the legislation a “monstrosity” and left the door open to voting against the final proposal if negotiations with the Senate don’t yield enough changes.
Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen all voted in favor of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which passed by a vote of 227-205. Every Democrat from South Florida voted against the plan with the exception of Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, who did not vote. Thirteen Republicans, mostly from northeastern states, voted against the plan.
Curbelo, a member of the House tax-writing committee responsible for drafting the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, has been a vocal supporter of the legislation for months and delivered introductory remarks in English and Spanish at a press conference with Republican leadership lauding the bill’s passage.
“What a country and what a day,” Curbelo said. “Today we are one step closer for tax relief for every American family.”
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Passing a bill would give President Donald Trump and the GOP their first big legislative triumph in 2017 after an effort to repeal Obamacare stalled earlier this year.
Diaz-Balart also praised the bill in a statement after the final vote.
“Filing your taxes shouldn't be an arduous and burdensome task; this legislation creates a simpler, fairer tax code for individuals, protecting their hard-earned dollars,” Diaz-Balart said. “American families deserve a tax code that allows them to keep more of what they make; for Floridians, that means keeping $1,945 more of their wages. It also creates more than 50,000 new jobs in the Sunshine State, encouraging business owners and revitalizing the job market.”
Ros-Lehtinen had a much different response to the sweeping tax legislation, saying she only voted in favor on Thursday so the House and Senate can hash out differences before drafting a final bill. Ros-Lehtinen said she could vote against the final bill if enough changes aren’t made.
“I will vote for this monstrosity with the hope that many of these things will get taken care of once the bill comes back and we have conference and people come to their senses,” Ros-Lehtinen said before the vote.
The House bill is just the first step in a process to overhaul the nation’s tax code for the first time since 1986. The Senate must pass its version of the bill and then the two chambers will get together to come up with a final product that must be approved again before it heads to Trump’s desk.
Left-leaning groups and Democratic candidates are planning to use the GOP tax bill as a political weapon in 2018, particularly targeting members like Curbelo who represent districts that voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump during the 2016 election.
“We need a tax code that puts middle class and small businesses first — not tax breaks for the top one percent and corporations, paid for by working families. It is simple — the Republican tax scam will raise taxes and eliminate tax deductions that our families depend on, all while increasing the deficit for our children,” said Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Democrat seeking to unseat Curbelo in 2018.
The tax plan cuts corporate and personal income tax rates while also slashing a number of deductions that are popular with various interests.
Ros-Lehtinen, a former teacher, particularly lamented the end of a deduction that lets teachers write off out-of-pocket expenses for classroom supplies.
“I’m not favor of doing away with deductions for teacher out-of-pocket expenses,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “Why take it out on the little guys like that? I’m optimistic that we can work our way through this.”