Schumer Floor Remarks on the Republican Tax Bill

November 30, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the secrecy behind the creation of the  Republican tax bill and the future consequences of the bill on the middle class. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Mr. President, later tonight or in the early hours of tomorrow morning, we will vote on the final passage of the Republican tax bill.

I would like to make two main points about the Republican tax bill in my speech this morning: first on process, and second, on the substance.

From the very beginning, the Republican tax bill has made a mockery, a mockery, of the legislative process.                            

Republican leaders disappeared behind closed doors and negotiated a framework for a tax bill, without a shred of Democratic input. Then Republican leaders wrote a bill, behind closed doors, without a shred of Democratic input. Republicans brought that bill through a markup in the Finance Committee, where it underwent the scrutiny of ONE – I repeat, ONE – expert witness. That’s it. Finance Committee Democrats offered sixty amendments to the bill but Republicans rejected every single one. Committee Republicans made it crystal clear they were not interested in bipartisanship. 

Now that bill is before us on the floor. Even further, significant changes likely will be made by the Majority Leader today, he will get huge changes in a bill today and try to vote on it tonight… and this is tax, one of the most complicated issues before us. These changes and the way the Majority Leader is handling this make it impossible for any independent analyst to get a good look at the bill and how it would impact our country.

From the one-sidedness with which it was drafted to the reckless haste with which it was considered – the Republican tax bill has failed to go through anything, anything, resembling the normal legislative process.

Before the night is out, I hope all of my Republican friends ask themselves if this is the way they want history to remember how the first major tax bill was passed in over 30 years. I hope they ask themselves if this process has lived up to the fine traditions of this body, as they were eloquently described by my friends the Senators from Arizona – both senior and junior.

The American people are clamoring for us to work together. They believe our politics is broken. They think our politics is starved of common sense and compromise, and it is. The way this tax bill is being rammed through is exactly why the American people our politics is so broken. 

Now let me address the substance of this bill.

Without exaggeration, I believe that if this bill passes, it will be remembered as one of the worst pieces of public policy in decades. A vote for passage will be a vote my Republican friends will regret.

At a time of immense inequality, the Republican tax bill makes life easier on the well-off and eventually makes life more difficult on working Americans, exacerbating one of the most pressing problems we face as a nation -- the yawning gap between the rich and everyone else.

Corporations enjoying record profits get a massive, permanent tax break while over 60% of the middle class will end up paying higher taxes because their benefits expire.

Healthcare premiums will go up 10%, and 13 million fewer Americans will end up having health insurance as a result of repealing the individual mandate.

The CBO said yesterday that even if we passed the Murray-Alexander bill into law, it would have little to no impact on either of those two things.

And when all is said and done, the tax bill will balloon the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion: adding to the debt burden borne by the next generation and diminishing our ability to support the military and invest in our schools, our roads, and in scientific research. Let me just repeat that: the increased deficits caused by this bill will cannibalize support from everything we know is essential to economic growth and a strong middle class, including support for our men and women in uniform.

Ultimately, this deficit-busting tax cut will endanger Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, as my friend the Republican Senator from Florida admitted yesterday (when he said higher deficits will mean “instituting changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future”).  

So a win today for the GOP would be a very temporary one. It would be enjoyed almost exclusively in the political media that measures who’s up today and down tomorrow but fails to grasp the bigger picture.

It won’t be a long-term win politically; recent polling has shown this tax bill is less popular than previous tax hikes. Let me say that again, recent polling has shown that this tax bill is less popular than previous tax hikes. But more importantly, it won’t be a win out in the country.  It won’t be a win for the 13 million middle-class families who pay higher taxes in 2019 or the 87 million middle-class families who pay higher taxes by 2027. It won’t be a win for the single mom in the suburbs, who, no longer able to deduct state and local taxes, will find it that much harder to send her daughter to college. It won’t be a win for the 13 million Americans who will go without health insurance and everyone else who will face 10 percent higher premiums next year.

These hardworking Americans have waited years for their Congress to pass legislation to make things just a little bit easier on them. They’ve watched an economy that for decades rewarded hard work and fair play turn against them, producing more wealth for the already wealthy, but less pay and less work for workers. For so many, this rigged economy that benefits too few and leaves too many behind is a source of frustration and anger and despair.

Donald Trump, in his campaign for the presidency, spoke to that anger. And yet, his tax bill, the Republican tax bill, is a betrayal of the working men and women who feel that anger and would make worse all of the problems that led to it in the first place.

We can do a better job on tax reform, but only if we work together. The way this Congress has careened from partisan bill to partisan bill, with no attempt even made at bipartisanship – has brought shame on this body and reinforced the skepticism that so many Americans have about our politics.

Today, my Republican friends have an opportunity to turn back from this partisan bill and this partisan process. If they do, I guarantee that they will find a Democratic Leader, Democratic Senate Caucus, and a Democratic party that’s eager to work with them on the kind of tax reform our country deserves.

We won’t sit in our corner and make unreasonable demands. As many of my colleagues know, there is a lot of sincere intent on this side of the aisle to do tax reform. I’ve worked with Sen. Hatch, I’ve worked with Sen. Portman, many others of my caucus have worked with Republicans on tax reform ideas for years. We can certainly put together a bill acceptable to both parties that reduces burdens on the middle class, makes our economy more competitive, creates jobs here at home, and do it in a deficit-neutral way.

This bill doesn’t do those things, but we can write a bill that does – together.

I say let’s give it a shot. If my Republican friends close the door on their partisan tax bill tonight, they will find an open door for bipartisan tax reform tomorrow.