WASHINGTON (AP) — In the end, Donald Trump's top achievement as president— a $1.5 trillion tax overhaul — was finalized in a "rush job" of an affair. And that was OK with him.
None of the members of Congress who muscled through the biggest tax overhaul in 30 years were in the Oval Office on Friday as Trump signed the measure into law. That's because the president was not pleased with news coverage that morning questioning whether he would get the bill signed before Christmas. So he ordered up a spur-of-the-moment signing event where he ticked through what he described as the "tremendous" accomplishments of his first year in office.
"This is the capper," Trump said of the tax package, using his last moments of the year in the White House to sign the bill before flying to Florida for the holidays. He also signed a temporary spending bill to keep the government running and provide money to upgrade the nation's missile defenses.
But the tax cut was at the top of Trump's mind after months of struggling to deliver his agenda through a Republican-controlled Congress. Trump on Friday thanked the absent GOP leaders and called the bill "something I'm very proud of."
Then, with no legislators on hand, he offered to distribute pens from his signing event to reporters assembled in the Oval Office. Clearly feeling some end-of-year cheer, the president who loves to decry "fake news" gave reporters and camera crews credit for "working very hard" and said, "We really appreciate that."
Starting next year, the new tax law will deliver big cuts to corporation and wealthy Americans and more modest reductions to other families. The tax law is the largest since 1986, but far from the biggest in American history, as the president repeatedly claims.
The first major overhaul of the nation's tax laws since 1986 could add $1.5 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Republican leaders have said they're willing to take that step in pursuit of a boost to the economy. But some in the GOP worry their party could face a political backlash without an aggressive public relations tour.
Trump continued to pitch the new law as a win a for the middle class, insisting that even though polling indicates the tax cut is unpopular, the results will win people over.
"I don't think I'm going to have to travel too much to sell it" during the 2018 midterm elections, Trump said. "I think it's selling itself."
Passage of the tax bill marked a significant victory for a president hungry for a win after chaos and legislative failures during his first year in office. Trump also ended the year with his sights still trained on his treatment by the press, tweeting that the mainstream media "NEVER talk about our accomplishments in the end of year reviews."
"We are compiling a long @ beautiful list," he tweeted.
Trump did celebrate passage of the tax bill at with a big ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House earlier in the week. But he scrapped plans for a more formal signing ceremony in the new year to get it signed before heading to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
"I said that the bill would be on my desk before Christmas," Trump said, as a Marine helicopter whirred outside, waiting to ferry him to Air Force One. "I didn't want you folks to say that I wasn't keeping my promise."
There were more big promises to come, including Trump's suggestion that he'll work with Democrats in the election year to rebuild the nation's roads and bridges. Infrastructure, he said, is "easy."
And there was no looking back.
Asked if he had any regrets, Trump shook his head and said, "No."
Lemire reported from New York. Follow Kellman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@APLaurieKellman