Senate passes sweeping GOP tax plan

WASHINGTON — The Senate passed its tax reform bill in the early hours of Saturday morning after a day full of Republican leaders making changes to bring enough members on board and a long night full of heated rhetoric on both sides of the aisle.

The vote was 51-49, mostly along party lines. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee was the only Republican to vote against the bill, citing concerns about growing the deficit.

Congressional negotiators continued to make changes to the bill — including handwriting alterations on to the document — up until just hours before the final vote, with Democrats sharply criticizing Republicans for not giving members enough time to read the sweeping legislation that would overhaul the U.S. tax system.

The House of Representatives approved its own tax reform plan last month, and the two chambers are expected to go to conference to reconcile the bills.

But passing the legislation Saturday was a huge victory for Senate Republicans and President Donald Trump, both looking for significant legislative achievements.

“For too long, too many Coloradans have felt left behind,” Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner said. “They have been forced to cope with a tax system that favors the elites and gives advantages to those who know how to game the system.

“Today marks a historic day for our country. It has been over 30 years since Congress has passed major tax reform and I’m excited to bring tax relief to millions of Coloradans.

“Coloradans will keep more of their own money in their own pockets, and the American people will be able to invest their savings the way they want to, not how Washington dictates.

“Our country will see an economic resurgence as a result of this legislation and I’m proud to deliver tax relief to Colorado.”

RELATED: What’s in the Senate tax bill

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a key holdout, announced just after noon that he would back the plan. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine announced her support Friday afternoon.

After the vote, Republicans bestowed a hefty number of back slaps and handshakes with lawmakers who have been integral in the process, including Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rob Portman of Ohio.

While Senate Whip John Cornyn of Texas stood over the vote tallying sheet watching it closely, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stood to the side.

At one point the majority leader looked up at Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding, pointed at him, winked, and gave him a thumbs up.