Updated on December 20 at 2:05 p.m. ET
President Trump has spent months exhorting Republican lawmakers to send him a tax-cut bill in time for Christmas—a $1.5 trillion stocking-stuffer for businesses and families. And on Wednesday afternoon, Congress delivered, as the House approved final passage of the GOP’s top legislative priority.
But despite Trump’s impatience for tax cuts, he might not actually sign the landmark bill into law right away, White House advisers said. In fact, Trump might wait until the new year, pushing the outer boundary of the 10 days the Constitution gives the president to affix his signature to legislation passed by Congress.
The reason for the possible delay involves a complicated bit of legislative gamesmanship. Under a 2010 “pay-as-you-go” law requiring Congress to offset any new spending or lower taxes, the $1.5 trillion bill would trigger automatic cuts to Medicare and other programs—across-the-board reductions that Republicans don’t want to be responsible for letting take effect. By waiting until the calendar turns to 2018 to formally enact the tax bill, Trump would push the automatic spending cuts to 2019 and buy Congress another year to waive them.
Congress has repeatedly—and usually routinely—passed legislation to prevent similar cuts in prior years, and Republicans are hoping Democrats will join them in doing so again in the next few days. “Just as we have done in the past, we need to pass a routine ‘Pay-Go’ waiver to avoid a draconian sequester that none of my colleagues want to see take effect,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday morning, just a few hours after Republicans passed the tax bill setting those very cuts in motion. “Americans are counting on us not to inflict harmful cuts on Medicare and other essential operations.”