As Congress on Tuesday and into early Wednesday voted to advance a massive Republican-supported overhaul of the U.S. federal tax system, the reaction from Montana's delegation aligned with that of their prospective parties.
Republicans Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte both praised the passage. The House passed the bill Tuesday afternoon 227 to 203 and the Senate 51-48. The House must vote on the bill again Wednesday to approve three changes made in the Senate.
Democrat Sen. Jon Tester voted against the bill.
“Getting the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act across the finish line means families will see bigger paychecks, Main Street businesses will be able to hire more workers, and America will compete and win on the world stage,” said Daines. “Montanans’ hard-earned dollars belong in their pockets, not in Washington, D.C.’s coffers.”
Daines said 99 percent of Montanans will receive a tax cut, though the cuts for individuals expire in 2025. The bill also eliminates the fine people paid for not having heath insurance, something Daines had long railed against. According to the senator, Montanans have paid nearly $7.8 million in fines since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Daines also said about 71 percent of Montanans use a standard deduction, which is doubled under the bill.
Gianforte also praised the bill.
“Santa came early for hardworking Montanans with tax reform that will let them keep more of what they earn,” Gianforte said. “Montanans of all income levels will see their taxes cut. These tax cuts keep $800 million in the hands of Montanans, not sent 2,000 miles to the federal government’s coffers.”
Tester criticized the bill, saying it will add more than $1 trillion to the national debt and provides 83 percent of its cuts to the top 1 percent of wage-earners.
“Those of you who vote yes on this bill will do so at the expense of our kids and grandkids,” Tester said. “They will be paying this tab long after we are gone. This bill will limit their opportunities and cap their potential.”
Tester said the bill's elimination of fines for those who don't get health insurance will raise premiums by 10 percent next year for those with coverage. Other changes, he said, will force cuts as high as $25 billion to Medicare.
"It will become more expensive to see your doctor. It will be harder for rural hospitals and clinics to keep their doors open. And more folks will end up in the emergency room. They will be sicker and their treatment will be more expensive and the rest of us will be forced to pay for it.”