Senate passes budget blueprint key to Trump tax effort

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's drive to overhaul the U.S. tax code cleared a critical hurdle on Thursday when the Senate approved a budget blueprint for the 2018 fiscal year that will pave the way for Republicans to pursue a tax-cut package without Democratic support.

By a 51-to-49 vote, the Republican-controlled Senate approved the budget measure, which would add up to $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade in order to pay for proposed tax cuts. Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul was the only GOP senator to vote against it.

"Now with this budget, we're on a path to deliver much-needed relief to American individuals and families who have borne the burden of an unfair tax code," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after it passed.

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Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at his side in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, center, First Lady-elect Melania Trump, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, right, exit after a meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. Trump's first visit to Washington since winning the Nov. 8 election is a key step toward bridging the nation's painful divisions before he takes the oath of office in January. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (2ndL), U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (2nd R), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (R) and other congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at his side in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell leave after their joint news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
US President-elect Donald Trump gives the thumbs up after a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on November 10, 2016. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrive to speak to the media in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at his side in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 10: President-elect Donald Trump (L) walks from a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) at the U.S. Capitol November 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day president-elect Trump met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 10: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (L), walks with President-elect Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol for a meeting November 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day president-elect Trump met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (L) as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (L) Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (3rd L) House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (3rd R), Vice President Mike Pence (2nd L) and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R) during a reception with Congressional leaders on January 23, 2017 at the White House in Washington, DC. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump smiles during a reception with Congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (L), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (2nd L) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (3rd L), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (R) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on January 23, 2017 at the White House in Washington, DC. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
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But Democrats are likely to oppose the Trump administration's tax plan, which promises to deliver up to $6 trillion in tax cuts to businesses and individuals.

"This is not a bad budget bill, it is a horrific budget bill," Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who ran for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, said before the vote. "At a time of massive income inequality, this budget provides $1.9 trillion in tax breaks for the top 1 percent."

The resolution has to be reconciled with a markedly different version passed by the House of Representatives, where Republicans say negotiations on a unified measure could take up to two weeks.

The House budget resolution calls for a revenue-neutral tax bill and would combine tax cuts in the same legislation as $203 billion in spending cuts to mandatory programs including food assistance for the poor. The Senate version instructs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to save at least $1 billion over the next decade.

The Senate measure contains a legislative tool called reconciliation, which would enable Republicans, who control the 100-seat Senate by a 52-48 margin, to move tax legislation through the Senate on a simple majority vote. Otherwise, tax reform would need 60 votes and would likely fail.

UNDER PRESSURE TO PASS TAX REFORM

After failing to approve Trump-backed legislation to overturn Obamacare, Senate Republicans are under intense pressure to succeed on tax reform, beginning with the budget measure, which would allow tax legislation to add up to $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade to pay for tax cuts.

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Protests for and against Obamacare

Tea Party Patriots supporters hold signs protesting the Affordable Care Act in front of the Supreme Court as the court hears arguments on the health care reform bill on Tuesday, March 27, 2012.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Affordable Care Act supporters wave signs outside the Supreme Court after the court upheld court's Obamacare on Thursday, June 25, 2015.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A man holds signs during a protest on the second day of oral arguments for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building on March 27, 2012 in Washington, DC. Today is the second of three days the high court has set aside to hear six hours of arguments over the constitutionality President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Sister Caroline attends a rally with other supporters of religious freedom to praise the Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby, contraception coverage requirement case on June 30, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby, which operates a chain of arts-and-craft stores, challenged the provision and the high court ruled 5-4 that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom.

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

An Obamacare supporter counter protests a Tea Party rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in the morning hours of March 27, 2012 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court continued to hear oral arguments on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Affordable Care Act supporters hold up signs outside the Supreme Court as they wait for the court's decision on Obamacare on Thursday, June 25, 2015.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Ron Kirby holds a sign while marching in protest of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on March 26, 2012 in Washington, DC. Today the high court, which has set aside six hours over three days, will hear arguments over the constitutionality President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

A protester waves his bible in the air as he overpowered by cheers from supporters of the Affordable Care Act as they celebrate the opinion for health care outside of the Supreme Court in Washington,Thursday June 25, 2015. The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the nationwide tax subsidies under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, in a ruling that preserves health insurance for millions of Americans.

(Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Nuns, who are opposed to the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate, and other supporters rally outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. On Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in Zubik v. Burwell, a consolidated case brought by religious groups challenging a process for opting out of the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate.

(Drew Angerer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Supporters of contraception rally before Zubik v. Burwell, an appeal brought by Christian groups demanding full exemption from the requirement to provide insurance covering contraception under the Affordable Care Act, is heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington March 23, 2016.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Protestors hold placards challenging 'Obamacare' outside of the US Supreme Court on March 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. The US Supreme Court heard a second challenge to US President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. The US Supreme Court faces a momentous case Wednesday on the sweeping health insurance reform law that President Barack Obama wants to leave as part of his legacy. The question before the court is whether the seven million people or more who subscribed via the government's website can obtain tax subsidies that make the coverage affordable. A ruling is expected in June.

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

 Linda Door (L) protests against President Obama's health care plan in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building on March 26, 2012 in Washington, DC. Today the high court, which has set aside six hours over three days, will hear arguments over the constitutionality President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act celebrate after the Supreme Court up held the law in the 6-3 vote at the Supreme Court in Washington June 25, 2015. The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the nationwide availability of tax subsidies that are crucial to the implementation of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, handing a major victory to the president.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

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Although Democratic votes will likely not be needed to pass tax legislation, President Donald Trump sought the support of six Senate Democrats for his plan at a Wednesday meeting with Finance Committee members from both parties.

Five of the six Democrats, whom the White House described as open to working with Trump on taxes, are up for reelection next year in states that Trump carried in the 2016 election.

The White House contends that the Republicans' plan to slash the corporate income tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent would create jobs and boost wages for blue-collar workers.

But Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the tax-writing Finance Committee, who attended the White House meeting, said he made clear to Trump that Democrats believed his plan would benefit the wealthy, raise taxes on some middle-class Americans and increase the federal deficit.

(Reporting by Amanda Becker and David Morgan; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)

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