UPDATE: Alaska Senators applaud the passage of the Senate tax bill 51-49

Published: Dec. 1, 2017 at 7:24 PM AKST
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President Donald Trump is expressing thanks to Senate and House Republicans for their hard-fought victories on taxes. The Senate passed its legislation early Saturday, and now that chamber and the House must try to reconcile differences in their two versions. It's shaping up to be the largest tax overhaul in three decades, and Trump says he aims to sign it into law before Christmas.

The Senate bill gives most of its tax breaks to businesses and high-earners. Altogether, the vote was a big step toward giving Trump his first major legislative triumph after months of false starts and frustration.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is shrugging off polls that find scant public enthusiasm for the measure. He says in an interview it will prove its worth and get the country "growing again."

The Alaska Oil and Gas Association on Saturday praised the passage of the bill, which includes a provision to open the 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to energy development.

"Allowing access to federal lands for responsible development increases the prospect for more oil flowing through the Trans Alaska Pipeline, Alaska’s economic artery," wrote AOGA president Kara Moriarty.


Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan joined their Republican colleagues in voting for the tax reform bill that narrowly passed through the U.S. Senate.

Murkowski released a statement that highlighted a section of the bill she wrote that would open up the 1002 Area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for energy development.

Sullivan echoed Murkowski, saying "allowing development in the coastal plain...is a win for Alaska and a win for the nation."

He also said, “I was proud to cast a vote to reform our nation’s outdated tax system, and to unleash America’s energy potential by opening up the 1002 area of ANWR for energy production,”

Speaking generally, Murkowski says the tax cuts will stimulate America’s economy, creating opportunities and putting more dollars back into the pockets of hard-working Americans.

“This bill provides relief for hardworking Alaskans and their families by doubling the standard deduction, increasing the child tax credit, and reducing the tax brackets at every income level. It stimulates economic growth and takes the actions we need to get the economy back on track,” said Senator Murkowski.

Murkowski said the bill was focused on job creation, particularly "the kind of jobs that allow Alaskans to build up their savings to cope with the unexpected and to retire with peace of mind. This bill provides a tremendous opportunity for small businesses, which make up 99 percent of the businesses in Alaska, making this a huge win for our state.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Don Young applauded the Senate for passing the bill, focusing on the potential for development in ANWR and the change to the country's tax code.

"As we move forward, particularly through the Conference Committee process, I will work with my House colleagues to ensure Alaska’s interests are protected and our energy sector continues to be a global leader. This is crucial for the economic growth of our state and nation, but also for countless families, communities and small businesses,” said Young.


Here are updates on the debate in the U.S. Senate over the G.O.P. tax reform bill:

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Latest on the GOP tax bill (all times local):

1:51 a.m.

The Senate has passed a nearly $1.5 trillion Republican tax bill that's historic in scope and an urgent political priority for President Donald Trump and the GOP.

The vote was 51-49, largely along party lines. Not a single Democrat voted in favor of the legislation, which was crafted behind closed doors by Senate Republican leaders. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, who calls the growing debt a national security threat, joined Democrats in opposing the bill.

The bill lays the bulk of its tax cuts on businesses and higher-earning individuals and gives more modest breaks to others.

It would bring the first major overhaul of the U.S. tax system in three decades. The measure must be reconciled with a version the House passed last month.


1:35 a.m.

The Senate has voted to eliminate a tax break for a politically-connected conservative college in Michigan.

Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon proposed the amendment to eliminate the tax break for Hillsdale College in southern Michigan. He noted that Hillsdale has connections to powerful Republicans, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Merkley says, "Isn't that just the type of insider deal for the wealthy and well-connected that we should oppose?"

The Senate Republicans' sweeping tax package would impose a new tax on investment income earned by some private universities and colleges.

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania added a provision exempting certain colleges that don't receive federal funds. Democrats say Hillsdale was the only college that would benefit.

Merkley's amendment was adopted by a 52-48 vote.

1:20 a.m.

The Senate has given a green light to opening Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

In a vote early Saturday morning, Republicans rejected an effort led by Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state to block drilling.

The vote was 52-48. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has pushed for oil and gas drilling in the refuge.

Opening the remote refuge to oil and gas drilling is a longtime Republican priority that most Democrats fiercely oppose.

The 19.6-million acre refuge in northeastern Alaska is one of the most pristine areas in the United States and is home to polar bears, caribou, migratory birds and other wildlife.

12:20 a.m.

The Senate has adopted an amendment that would allow parents to use 529 college funds to pay private school tuition for students in kindergarten through high school.

Parents could also use the tax-exempt funds on home-schooling expenses.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas offered the amendment to Senate Republicans' sweeping tax package. The vote was a 50-50 tie with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaker.

All Senate Democrats opposed the measure. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were the only Republicans who voted against it.


8:20 p.m.

Democrats have taken to the Senate floor to attack a planned amendment to the tax bill that would give a break to a conservative college in Michigan.

Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Patrick Toomey acknowledged he'd sponsored the language and said Hillsdale College would benefit from it.

Toomey defended Hillsdale as "a wonderful institution" and said other schools might qualify for the tax break, too. His provision would shield schools that receive no federal aid from language in the bill that taxes the investment income of some colleges and universities.

Democrats say Toomey's provision was written in a way that only Hillsdale would qualify for the reduction. They complain that some well-known conservatives have connections to the school, including Trump administration Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.


8 p.m.

As the Senate nears a momentous vote on the massive Republican tax bill, Democrats are mocking what they say is the late-provided, hefty text of the legislation in videos and tweets.

They're displaying the nearly 500 printed pages with handwritten notes in the margins.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts tweets, "No, I haven't had time to read the 500-page #GOPTaxScam bill that we're voting on tonight," with a photo of her reading aloud from pages at her desk. "Couldn't read it if I tried - and I did."

Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana says "one page literally has hand-scribbled policy changes on it that can't be read. This is Washington, D.C. at its worst. Montanans deserve so much better."


5:10 p.m.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker has become the only Republican senator to say he will vote against his party's $1.4 trillion tax bill.

His decision won't affect the measure's fate. GOP leaders have already said they have enough votes to push the legislation through the Senate in a vote they hope will come later Friday.

Corker's decision is not a surprise. He had expressed concerns that the measure would add more red ink to the government's $20 trillion in accumulated debt. He said Friday he doesn't want to burden future generations.

Corker has broken openly with President Donald Trump, questioning his stability and warning he might cause World War III.

Corker says he told Trump of his decision, and isn't ruling out backing a compromise House-Senate tax bill.