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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. corporations have announced more than $218 billion in share buybacks since Congress enacted the Republican tax overhaul in December, an investment research firm said on Wednesday.

The California-based firm TrimTabs, which tracks corporate buybacks, said the value of buyback programs announced in February alone surged to $153.7 billion from $59.9 billion in January, smashing a previous monthly record of $133 billion in April 2015.

“Activity has certainly accelerated. Buybacks increased for five consecutive months beginning in July 2017 and have exploded in February,” said TrimTabs analyst Winston Chua.

“If the pace keeps up, this year’s volume will smash totals from all other previous years going back more than a decade,” he added.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senate Democrats said in a separate report that $209 billion worth of U.S. corporate share buybacks have been announced since Jan. 5, claiming the figure shows that the Republican tax overhaul largely benefits corporations, corporate executives and wealthy shareholders.

Long a flash point for partisan disagreement in Washington, the tax cuts are expected to play a major role in Nov. 6 congressional mid-term elections, which will determine whether Republicans can maintain their majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives.

Republicans including President Donald Trump, who signed tax legislation into law in December, have joined U.S. companies in promoting a recent spate of bonuses, pay raises and other benefits as evidence that the tax overhaul is benefiting workers.

A spokesman for Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Democrats are losing the argument on taxes and dismissed the buyback report as a desperate attempt to change the subject.

The report by Senate Democrats spans more than 30 buyback programs announced by companies from a range of industries including banking, energy, manufacturing, retailing and technology. (http://bit.ly/2F3tN49)

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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