Pence skips out on Mideast trip as GOP preps for tax vote

Vice President Pence is postponing a planned Middle East trip as Congress prepares to vote on the Republican tax bill.

The trip was also shortened after several leaders refused to meet with Pence following President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Muslim and Christian clerics in Egypt announced they would not meet with him shortly after Trump upended decades of American foreign policy and announced the U.S. Embassy will be moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has condemned Trump’s decision, said earlier this week that he was canceling a planned Bethlehem meeting with Pence.

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White House officials say they want Pence present in D.C. in case his tie-breaking vote becomes necessary.

(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

White House officials don’t believe that Pence’s tie-breaking vote will be needed for the tax bill, but they want him in Washington just in case.

The overhaul, which will reduce the corporate tax rate and combine key elements of separate bills passed by the Senate and the House, is being touted by Trump and top Republicans as a windfall for the middle class.

People take part in a rally against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

World reacts after President Trump formally recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

The President wants the legislation on his desk before Christmas.

“The cynical voices that opposed tax cuts grow smaller and weaker, and the American people grow stronger,” he said. “This is for people of middle income, this is for companies that are going to create jobs. This is for very, very special people, the great people of America.”

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The legislation, which is still being finalized, would add billions to the national debt and cut the top tax rate for the wealthiest earners — including Trump — from 39.6% to 37%. It would also slash the corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21%.

Republicans believe they have the votes to pass the measure and hope to bring it to the Senate floor on Monday.

Tempers are running hot in the Arab world after Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Tempers are running hot in the Arab world after Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

(Evan Vucci/AP)

But the initial tax bill barely eked its way out of the Senate with a 51-49 win after Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) sided with Democrats in opposing the measure.

Further complicating matters is the fact that Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Thad Cochran of Mississippi have missed votes recently because of health issues.

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McCain, 81, is being treated for the side effects of brain cancer treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. The 80-year-old Cochran had a non-melanoma lesion removed from his nose earlier this week.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Thursday he is a “no” vote unless the GOP expands the proposed child tax credit for poor working families.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas canceled a planned meeting with Pence after Trump's Jerusalem decision was announced.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas canceled a planned meeting with Pence after Trump’s Jerusalem decision was announced.

(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Trump predicted that Rubio would come around and back the bill.

“I think that Sen. Rubio will be there for sure,” Trump said following a speech on deregulation.

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The President expressed confidence that the bill will clear both houses of Congress next week.

“It’ll be the greatest Christmas present that many people have ever received. It’ll be something special,” Trump said.

mike pence
taxes and spending
trump tax plan
israeli-palestinian conflict

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