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Final votes loom on Republican tax bill

The Republican-controlled Congress plans final passage later of the most sweeping overhaul of the US tax system in more than three decades.

The House of Representatives is expected to approve the legislation comfortably, but the vote will be closer in the Senate.

The bill looks set to mark the party’s first major legislative triumph under President Donald Trump.

Critics say the package is a deficit-bloating giveaway to the super-rich.

But Republicans argue the tax cuts for corporations, small businesses and individuals will bolster economic growth.

The bill permanently cuts the tax rate for corporations from 35% to 21%.

It reduces the tax share paid by the wealthiest Americans, while awarding more modest reductions for most other income brackets.

The legislation would add as much as $1.4tn to the $20tn national debt over 10 years, the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation says.

The House is expected to pass the bill on Tuesday afternoon, with the Senate voting later in the evening or early on Wednesday.

“Congress is standing at the doorstep of a historic opportunity,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor of the chamber.

US Vice-President Mike Pence has postponed a Middle East trip in case he is needed to cast a tie-breaking vote to ensure the measure clears the Senate.

In the upper chamber, which Republicans control by 52-48, the party can afford to lose support from no more than two votes.

Change of heart

On Monday, two of the last Senate Republican holdouts, Susan Collins and Mike Lee, agreed to support the legislation.

Senator Jeff Flake remained undecided late on Monday. Senator John McCain, who has brain cancer, is with his family in Arizona.

Another Republican senator, Bob Corker, meanwhile, denied his change of heart in favour of the bill had been motivated by a tax deduction that could benefit his real estate investments.

The Tennessean had long been opposed to the tax bill because of projections it would add to the federal deficit.

But on Friday Mr Corker dropped his objections as a provision was added offering a 20% deduction on certain property income.

On Monday, he denied switching sides because he could benefit personally from the legislation.

In the House, where Republicans hold a 239-193 majority, some “no” votes from fiscal hawks and defectors are expected, but are seen as unlikely to thwart passage.

Republicans have been eager to prove they can govern after their attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act collapsed this summer.

The tax bill continues the party’s attempts to dismantle the 2010 law known as Obamacare by scrapping a fine it imposes on Americans who do not buy health insurance.

With an eye on next year’s midterm elections, Democrats argue that the tax package will further expand the US income gap between rich and poor.

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