Leahy, on his NO vote, as Senate nears final passage of tax plan

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Leahy, on his NO vote, as Senate nears final passage of tax plan

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 4:50pm -- tim
Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
On Consideration of The Conference Report to H.R. 1
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
December 19, 2017

Little more than a month ago, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was unveiled in the Senate.  Just a few short weeks later, we are on the verge of passing a colossal bill, publicly available for just four days, that makes sweeping changes to every aspect of our economy.  We are moving so fast that the American people would be forgiven for thinking we were addressing a national emergency.  And yet, fires are still blazing in California, power in Puerto Rico is still not fully restored, and victims around the Gulf of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria are still struggling to pick up the pieces and rebuild.  There are indeed national emergencies we should be addressing, but instead of doing so, Republicans in Congress are focused first on passing tax cuts for corporations and billionaires – tax cuts that will add an estimated $1.5 trillion to the deficit.

The process that led to the bill we are voting on today has been fundamentally flawed from the outset.  From the beginning, this bill has been written behind closed doors by Senate Republicans.  No hearings were ever held on this bill, denying the American people an opportunity to add their voices to the debate.  When the Senate voted on its version of this bill in the dead of night, Senators only received the text a few hours before the vote – and even then, the text was hastily put together, with scribbles written into the margins.  We discovered that lobbyists knew more about what was in it than those of us who had the responsibility to vote on it.  No wonder that it was loaded with last-minute special interest giveaways.

There is serious doubt this bill will benefit the middle class, as Republicans claim.  What we do know is that it will result in millions of fewer insured Americans and higher health care premiums for millions more.  At the same time, corporations will receive a windfall in permanent tax cuts that will bust our budget for decades to come.  Even more appallingly, it includes special provisions that will directly benefit the President and some Members of Congress.  It doesn’t end there.  Republicans have yet to address the $1 trillion in cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other programs vital to the American people, which will be spurred by the passage of this bill.  This bill cynically and surreptitiously sets the stage for those slashing cuts. 

This is a bill that cheats our future for the sake of a tax-cut windfall for the one percent.  It does absolutely wonderful things for the wealthiest taxpayers, like the President, his cronies and his family.  If he wants to dispute that, he should finally release his tax returns, and prove to the American people that the “Christmas present” the President talks about will not, in fact, benefit his bottom line. 

What we do know is this bill does not advance the common good.  It offers little but crumbs on the table and coal in the stockings of hardworking Americans, while the wealthiest individuals and corporations reap the rewards of this bill, with the false promise of trickle-down benefits to everyone else.  The wealthiest are doing just fine and big corporations already are pulling in record profits, which they’re not investing but salting away.  More than 400 millionaires have urgently told Congress that they don’t need more tax cuts.  

Republicans will continue to claim that their bill represents serious tax reform, but the public isn’t fooled.  Poll after poll shows that the American people see this bill for what it is: a betrayal of the middle class and a betrayal of American values.  They have seen enough of trickle-down economics to know that the benefits never flow to them.  At the end of the day, it is clear that this bill was never really about the middle class; it was about the Republican donor class.

I wish we had gone down a different path, one where both parties worked together to provide real relief to the working families we all represent.  It belies the storied history of this institution to rush through such a sweeping bill, through an arcane process of reconciliation intended to secure the lowest possible number of votes to succeed, without the benefit of public opinion, or even public review.

After one of the least productive sessions of Congress that I can recall, Republicans are so desperate for a “win” that they will mortgage away our future.  This bill is not tax reform.  This is a cartoonish caricature of what real tax reform should look like.  It is dishonest to its core.  It is cynical, and it can only breed more cynicism by the public.  It is bad policy, it is indefensible policy, and it is wrong.

It is said that every generation has a responsibility to leave our nation better, brighter, and stronger for the generations that follow.  This tax bill accomplishes none of those goals.

I strongly oppose – I reject – this conference report, and the crass, partisan path that brought us here.