That aisle might as well be the Grand Canyon. Senate Republicans are going to stick with their plan to pass a tax bill with just 50 GOP votes, despite pleas from Democrats that they not be paralyzed like they were on health care.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reaffirmed on Tuesday the GOP’s intention to shield any tax overhaul from a Democratic filibuster by using the procedural protections of budget reconciliation. When McConnell explained his decision to reporters, he cited a letter from 45 Democratic senators who urged Republicans not to use reconciliation. But they also vowed to oppose a tax plan that adds to the deficit or cuts the annual bill of the richest 1 percent of taxpayers. McConnell simply said, “We will need to use reconciliation” for taxes in the wake of Democrats’ statement that they are “not interested in addressing” Republican priorities, McConnell said.
“I don’t think this is going to be 1986 when you had a bipartisan effort to scrub the code,” McConnell added. He then left the door open to gaining votes from the “Democratic senators who did not sign the letter who may be open to pro-growth tax reform.”
The three Democratic senators who may just walk through that open door are Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, all of whom face tough reelections next year.
McConnell explained that there would be a difference in the process of tax reform that was not the case with healthcare, the party would hold hearings in both chambers on taxes after lawmakers return from their recess next month. The GOP hopes to finish work on tax reform “sometime this year,” McConnell said.
McConnell had to admit that it wasn’t the filibuster that killed the health care bill. “It’s pretty obvious that our problem on health care was not the Democrats,” McConnell told reporters. “We didn’t have 50 Republicans.”
Democrats reacted quickly against McConnell. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned that unless the GOP brings in Democrats as they create the tax bill, the party risks a crash that parallels its failure on Obamacare repeal.
“We saw the trouble of going at it alone with health care,” Schumer told reporters Tuesday. “If they decide to cut Democrats out of the process and do it by themselves, the same thing is likely to await them.”
Schumer also posed some deep questions to McConnell: ”Which of our three principles don’t you agree with?” Schumer asked McConnell. “Do you not agree that tax cuts shouldn’t go to the very wealthy? Do you not agree that we should work in a bipartisan way? Do you not agree that we should not increase the deficit?”
What are your thoughts about the GOP’s plan to go it alone again on tax reform?