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Democratic Senator: Like Obamacare, GOP Tax Bill Will be ‘Hard to Sustain Politically’

Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), left, and Chris Coons (D-Del.) arrive on Capitol Hill on Aug. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) described the Republican tax reform bill as similar to Obamacare because it was passed along partisan lines and will be “hard to sustain politically.”

No Democrats voted in favor of the tax reform bill that passed the Senate in a 51-48 vote before lawmakers left for the holiday break. Hours before the vote, Coons said Republicans should have worked with Democrats to reform the tax code for individuals and businesses. He was asked if he views the legislative process for tax reform the same as the Affordable Care Act in 2010, which no Republicans supported.

Coons replied that the ACA was different because there were “dozens of hearings” and it was an “open process over many, many months,” but tax reform was not.

“The final text of the tax bill was never shown to the Democrats on the conference committee until after it was released. The draft of the bill in the Senate wasn’t even shared with most Republican senators before it was marked up. It was a very rushed process for this tax bill. One way it’s the same is the ACA ended up being passed through reconciliation with a bare 50-vote majority from one party. In the end, that has shown that the ACA was hard to sustain politically because it wasn’t a bipartisan bill,” Coons said during an interview with PJM on Capitol Hill.

“This is also going to be hard to sustain politically because there’s no Democrats bought into this tax package – that makes it more likely that we’re going to keep fighting over its impact on the middle class and its impact on the economy for a long time to come,” he added.

Coons said he was willing to work across the aisle to reduce the statutory corporate tax rate. He referred to the GOP tax plan as “incredibly complex” and costly.

“I do think we could have found a path towards a bipartisan compromise that actually delivered on what President Trump campaigned on – a real middle-class tax cut and a corporate rate to make us more competitive – but that’s not what ended up happening,” he said. “The tax breaks for middle-class Americans are temporary and the tax breaks for businesses and some of the provisions that affect the wealthiest are permanent. We could have structured this differently in a way that would not have had as big an impact on the deficit and debt. I’m sorry the Republicans chose not to pursue that route.”

According to a CNN poll released last week, public opposition to the GOP tax plan is at 55 percent.

In response to the CNN poll, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said the legislative process for the tax bill was “totally corrupted.”

“They haven’t gotten public input on this bill. The committees that normally work on the bill haven’t done any work on the bill at all. It’s a bill that’s drafted by a few folks in the backroom and put out and it’s not a good bill because it adds $1.5 trillion, at a minimum, to our national debt. This is money our kids are going to have to pay back, and so this is a non-starter,” Tester told PJM before the final vote.

“The American people should be unhappy about this bill because, quite frankly, it’s not a visionary bill at all. It’s a bill that taxes our kids for benefits today and that is not the way this system should work,” he added.

Republicans senators have said the United States had to lower its corporate tax rate to remain competitive with other industrialized nations. Tester was asked if he agreed with that argument.

“Number one, I think there were a bunch of Democrats, myself included, who said we need tax reform. I think there were ways we could do this tax reform without adding to the national debt and focusing on the middle class to make sure those tax breaks were permanent to make our middle class the biggest middle class that it could be, but that’s not what the Republicans wanted to do,” Tester told PJM.

“They wanted a bill that really helped out and made income inequality even wider. It’s really sad. It truly is sad the leadership in the Senate right now was afraid to get public input and negotiate more together to get a bill that would work for America. This bill is not going to work for America and it’s real unfortunate because it will be a generation before we address it again,” he added.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) brushed aside the CNN poll findings as well as concerns that the tax bill does not do enough to help middle-class Americans.

“We are providing tax relief but it’s also about growing the economy, creating jobs, moving wages and income higher. And I think that’s what we’re going to see is that across the board hardworking Americans will benefit from higher wages and income,” Hoeven said when asked about concerns that the bill does not provide enough middle-class tax relief compared to wealthier taxpayers.