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Schumer Statement on GOP Tax Bill

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today gave the following remarks regarding the Republican Tax Bill on the Senate Floor. The remarks can also be viewed here.

Mr. President, in just a short time, we’ll proceed to a final vote on the Republican tax bill.

We understand they have the votes to pass their bill, despite a process and a product that no one can be proud of and everyone should be ashamed of.

Historians will mark today as one of the darkest black-letter days in the long history of the Senate.

Once hailed as the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body, as a beacon of American democracy and the envy of representative governments around the world, the Senate seems to have abandoned those qualities in a rush to pass a bill that no one is proud of.

Substantively -- the Republicans have managed to take a bad bill and make it worse. It was chock full of special interest giveaways before tonight. But now, under the cover of darkness and with the aid of haste, a flurry of last minute changes will stuff even more money in the pockets of the wealthy and the biggest corporations, while raising taxes on millions in the middle class.

One provision may be a metaphor for the whole bill. One college, Hillsdale College, has been exempted from a tax on colleges with large endowments. Hillsdale College is supported by the DeVos family, one of the largest contributors to the Republican party. A specific provision, just like an earmark, was slipped into the bill, added by a Senator who fought to remove earmarks from Congress several years ago. A single wealthy college, the pet project of billionaire campaign contributors to the Republican Party, was exempted from a tax by a Senator who fought to get rid of earmarks. That, unfortunately, is a metaphor for the bill, and how high the stench is rising in this chamber as we debate the bill tonight.

In my long career in politics, I have not seen a more regressive piece of legislation, so devoid of a rationale, so ill-suited for the condition of the country, so removed from the reality of what the American people need.

Working people in our country are struggling. Corporations and the very wealthy are doing great. There is no reason for rushing through a tax break for millionaires and billionaires, paid for by pilfering the pockets and the healthcare of middle-class Americans. Millions of middle class families will get a tax hike next year, and millions more thereafter because of this bill.

That’s why the bill is such a monstrosity and such a danger to the country. And the American people know it. That’s why they oppose the bill in large majorities.

My Republican friends will ultimately pay the consequences for this bill in 2018 and beyond. The Republican Party will never again be the party of tax cuts for the middle class. With the passage of this tax bill, today will be the first day of a new Republican party – one that raises taxes on the middle class, abandoning its principles for its political paymasters.

Now, with respect to process: The bill that my Republican friends hope to pass soon was received by members of this body only a few hours ago. Not a single member of this chamber has read the bill. It’d be impossible. Some of the pages are completely crossed off, and the text has been replaced by handwritten notes. When we got the bill, this is what it looked like.

When asked before by Sen. Durbin, the Senate Clerk said that she couldn’t even read it. And this section is one of the most complicated sections of the bill dealing with pass-throughs. Lawyers are paid thousands of dollars an hour to find ways for their wealthy patrons to avoid sections just like this. And my Republican friends don’t have the decency, the honor, to let us debate it.

Sen. McCaskill was the first to discover a list of proposed amendments was circulating among lobbyists. My Republican friends allowed lobbyists to see amendments and likely the text of this bill before their fellow US Senators.

Mr. President, there is no score of this bill by the Joint Committee on Taxation. There will be no analysis of how American businesses and taxpayers fare under this bill. How high taxes go up or go down. If the economy grows or shrinks. If it creates jobs or loses them. Who knows? Certainly no one here. No one could know, because it hasn’t even been read, let alone thoughtfully considered.

I remember a few years back, when my Republican colleagues gleefully scolded us to “read the bill” because the Affordable Care Act was a lengthy piece of legislation – and that bill was available for days before anyone had to vote on it.

With this stunning deception…with this reckless ramrodding of a bill…Republicans are reaching heretofore unreached heights of hypocrisy, and the Senate is descending to a new low of chicanery. Read the bill? They’re still writing it by hand, mere hours before voting on it.

Is this really how the Republicans are going to rewrite the tax code? Scrawled like something on the back of a napkin?  Behind closed doors? With the help of K Street lobbyists? If that’s not a recipe for swindling the middle class and loosening loopholes for the wealthy, I don’t know what is.

I don’t know if it’s possible for a Senate Majority to depart further from responsible legislating than the process we witnessed with this tax bill.

Tonight, Mr. President, I feel mostly regret at what could-have-been. What a grave shame it is that we weren’t able to work together on this bill. Tax reform is an issue that is ripe for bipartisan compromise. Democrats have spent many long hours with our Republican colleagues talking about tax reform ideas. There is a sincere desire on this side of the aisle to work with our colleagues, particularly on tax reform, but we have been rebuffed, time and time again. Even under these difficult circumstances, Senators Coons and Warner and Bennet, Manchin, Donnelly, Heitkamp, and McCaskill have tried in good faith to convince our Republican friends to sit down and talk to us. We’ve tried to convince you all that we want to join you in tax reform, to have a real debate befitting this august body.

It is an expression of the brokenness of our politics that the influence of moneyed interests and the political right was so great that it overcame even the best intentions of my Republican colleagues, so many of whom I admire. So many of whom I know, because they’ve said it to me, lament the steady erosion of bipartisanship in the one institution in our government designed by nature to foster it.

I salute my friend the Senator from Tennessee for standing fast by his principles and having the courage of his convictions. I only regret that there were not more who followed his admirable example.

After a divisive and draining battle over the future of healthcare, we could’ve moved the Senate back toward sanity, bipartisanship and compromise. We could’ve accomplished something great for the country and for this body at the same time.

Though time is running short, there is still time. And I will make one final plea.                         

Because the bill is so slanted toward the wealthy and powerful, and rains tax increases upon millions of middle-class citizens;

Because the bill is laden with special-interest provisions, some recently found and many not yet seen;

Because the bill was given to the lobbyists to read and change before Senators saw it;

And because the bill was given to us a few hours ago and has not been read fully or considered fully by a single Senator;

I move we adjourn until Monday, so we can first read, and then clean up this awful piece of legislation.