Senate Democrats accused their Republican colleagues of circulating a long list of giveaways to lobbyists Friday during a debate before an expected vote on their tax reform bill.
The Senate is nearing a final vote on the bill which aims to overhaul the tax code. Republicans promise the plan will help boost economic growth so that people across the country can benefit. Democrats have argued it mostly just benefits the wealthy while hurting middle-class families. They have debated on the Senate floor for over two days about how the bill would actually impact regular Americans.
Senate Democrats have noted particular concern over the repeal of state and local state deductions and another provision which ends the individual mandate – a tax introduced through the Affordable Care Act that penalizes anyone who doesn’t have health insurance coverage. As the debate went into Thursday evening, Democrats warned of a last-minute list of provisions that they claim will benefit lobbyists and special-interests.
“I have just seen an airdropped list of provisions, there seems to be upwards of 30, and it sure looks like the lobbyists have been working overtime. They must have earned a holiday gift with this new bonanza of goodies,” Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden said on the floor. “We’re going to use this time so that colleagues can get into some of these questions about this array of treats that the lobbyists seem to have figured out how, in the last few hours, or perhaps overnight, to carve out for their benefit.”
Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley then proceeded to claim that the list of provisions wasn’t even filed so that other lawmakers and the public could see them. He argued it only further showed how the bill is intended to benefit the richest Americans at the expense of middle-tax taxpayers – noting particular concern over a life insurance provision which wasn’t detailed but only named.
“Republicans have given to the lobby a list of 30 special-interest provisions, circulated it,” Merkley said. “There is one from my colleague speaking moments ago from South Carolina that hasn’t even been filed, life insurance provisions, well what’s that? Maybe my colleague would like to come to the floor and explain it, and explain why this is being circulated to the lobbyist, to the swamp, instead of to the members of the U.S. Senate. There are 30 of these provisions, who knows what’s in all of this? Isn’t there any form of transparency or integrity left in this chamber in terms of legislative debate? Have the American people had a chance to see this list?”
Republican Sen. Rob Portman responded by arguing that the provisions were filed in the proper manner and made public. He directed them and others to go to the Senate Republican Policy Committee website to see all the provisions they introduced. But it’s unclear whether the provisions listed on the website are the same – it doesn’t mention the alleged life insurance provision.
“My colleague just talked about his concerns about some of the provisions that are before us,” Portman said. “These were made public, there’s nothing on this list that hasn’t been filed publicly. And just looking at it, the biggest one my colleague talked about as being something to help rich people is the deduction for property taxes, it’s capped at $10,000.”
Republicans originally planned on voting on the bill Thursday night, but it was delayed due to lingering concerns among party members. A major concern was over how the bill would impact the deficit. They also increased the tax deduction for pass-through businesses, which are often small and family-owned, from 17.4 percent up to 23 percent, according to CNBC.
Portman’s office did not immediately return a request for clarification by InsideSources. Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Barrasso’s office did not immediately reply either.