- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Even as President Trump reveled Wednesday in his first major legislative victory in office, boasting that Congress delivered a promised “big, beautiful tax cut for Christmas,” he still stewed about not getting enough credit for his accomplishments in his first year in office.

The House gave final approval to the Republicans’ $1.5 trillion bill, voting a second time in as many days to pass the far-reaching package of corporate and individual tax cuts after the Senate made minor changes to satisfy its stricter budget rules.

The House voted 224-201 to send Mr. Trump the biggest overhaul of the tax code since Ronald Reagan, including a stunning cut of the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent that the administration says will unleash an economic juggernaut in America.

With congressional Democrats united in opposition, the vote was followed by a jubilant rally at the White House, where Mr. Trump and Republican leaders on Capitol Hill lavished praise on one another for delivering on a central campaign promise.

The legislation will lower individual tax rates, nearly double the standard deduction, double the child tax credit to $2,000 and lower rates for small businesses. Other provisions achieve long-sought conservative goals, including opening a huge swath of Alaska to oil and gas exploration and rolling back the Obamacare mandate that all Americans get health insurance or pay a penalty.

But even before the tax overhaul bill was formally passed, Mr. Trump was accusing his political opponents and the media of diminishing the magnitude of the achievement.

“The Tax Cuts are so large and so meaningful, and yet the Fake News is working overtime to follow the lead of their friends, the defeated Dems, and only demean,” the president said in one of his signature early morning tweets. “This is truly a case where the results will speak for themselves, starting very soon. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!”

Democrats and their allies blasted the bill for showering most of the benefits on the wealthy and corporations and giving tax breaks to real estate investors that will include Mr. Trump’s family and business empire. The comments were part of the opening salvos from both parties to try to shape the image of the bill heading into midterm election battles next year.

“Today’s passage of the partisan tax bill officially cements the Republican Party as the party of the wealthy and the party of big corporations against the middle class and the working people of this country,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “Why? President Trump, his rich fans, Cabinet members and donors, and the biggest corporations make out like bandits, while the middle class gets crumbs and tax hikes.”

But Mr. Trump and his aides say the failure of the Washington establishment to appreciate the president’s successes is just par for the course.

The White House has argued that the administration routinely gets short shrift for its wins. Officials insist the president has had a banner first year in office with a booming economy, a rollback of regulations to appoint conservative judges and a role in defeating Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

The best barometer of his leadership, officials said, is the skyrocketing stock market. The Dow Jones industrial average has made an unprecedented 5,000-point climb since Mr. Trump took office as nearly 1.7 million jobs were created and the unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent — the lowest rate in 17 years.

Negative stories and bad polls

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the news media’s disregard of accomplishments and focus on negative stories were to blame for the president’s low job approval ratings in many polls.

“While the president and this administration has been very focused on how we can better help the American people, I think oftentimes the media is focused on other things — certainly not talking about the growing economy, certainly not talking about the crushing of ISIS, not talking about the creation of jobs,” she said. “If people were focused a lot more on those things in the media, I think that his numbers would be a lot higher.”

She predicted that the administration’s accomplishments would become harder to deny as people begin to feel the effects of the tax cuts and the booming economy, including bigger paychecks in February when lower tax withholding rates kick in.

One tangible fallout from the tax vote came within hours, with AT&T, Wells Fargo, Boeing and Comcast among a number of major employers announcing year-end bonuses for workers and major investment plans for next year, directly crediting the tax cuts for their moves.

Mr. Trump has thrilled conservatives with an aggressive pace of judicial appointments, reshaping the courts for a generation. By mid-December, Mr. Trump had nominated 59 people for federal judgeships. Of those, 19 were confirmed, including Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and a record 12 circuit court judges.

The administration also takes credit for a massive rollback of federal regulations, many imposed under President Barack Obama, that officials estimate will save taxpayers more than $8 billion; a crackdown on illegal immigration that temporarily reduced the number of border jumpers; and a pro-market energy policy including jump-starting the long-stalled Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and opening Alaska to oil drilling.

Critics have sought ways to poke holes in each of these feats in an effort to minimize Mr. Trump’s record.

They say the impact of the president’s deregulatory moves has been oversold, that illegal border crossings returned to Obama-era levels last month, and that there are doubts about whether the pipelines will be built or that there will ever be major drilling operations in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

At the White House event celebrating the tax cuts, Mr. Trump said he didn’t even realize what a big deal ANWR was until “a friend” told him that Republicans have been trying for nearly 40 years to open the massive oil fields.

“He said, ‘We’ve been trying to get that passed, the whole country, the world.’ They tried in Ronald Reagan, they tried with the Bushes, they tried with everybody. They never got ANWR,” Mr. Trump said. “But we got ANWR in this bill.”

Most House and Senate Republicans, including many who had not supported Mr. Trump in the past, gathered behind him at the White House South Portico to bask in the accomplishment. Several once-critical lawmakers gave him high marks for his leadership in the difficult tax fight, a sharp contrast to the bitter recriminations in the wake of the failed push to repeal Obamacare this year.

“This has been a year of extraordinary accomplishment for the Trump administration,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who has worked on tax reform for his entire political career, said Mr. Trump deserved most of the credit for the tax cuts.

“Something this big, something this generational, something this profound could not have been done without exquisite presidential leadership,” said Mr. Ryan. “Thank you, Mr. President, for getting us over the finish line.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, also applauded the president’s leadership.

“You’re one heck of a leader. This bill could not have passed without you,” he said. “Look at all the things that he’s been able to get done, by sheer will in many ways.”

Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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