Put this in the It doesn’t hurt to ask column. After last night’s surprise win in Alabama, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wants to pause all work on the Republicans’ tax reform bill. Shouldn’t Alabama’s newest envoy, Schumer argues, get a chance to weigh in on the legislation?
Sen. Schumer calls for delay in tax vote until Doug Jones is sworn in: "It would be wrong for Senate Republicans to jam through this tax bill without giving the newly-elected senator from Alabama the opportunity to cast his vote." https://t.co/QeyhXhcpAo pic.twitter.com/xJ8oVr85fN
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) December 13, 2017
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is demanding that Republicans delay a vote on their tax plan in the wake of Tuesday’s special election in Alabama.
“It would be wrong for Senate Republicans to jam through this tax bill without giving the newly elected senator from Alabama a chance to cast his vote,” Schumer told reporters during a press conference.
Democrat Doug Jones won the special election, defeating GOP candidate Roy Moore, who was facing several accusations of pursuing relationships with teenagers when he was in his 30s.
It’d be one heck of a delay. According to Alabama’s Secretary of State, the earliest that Jones’ victory can be certified is December 27th, which moots a demand from Elizabeth Warren to Mitch McConnell to seat Jones immediately:
McConnell cannot act until Alabama sends certification to Senate. And that will not happen until Dec 27 at earliest, according to Alabama Sec of State. https://t.co/51lzPiOWWD
— michaelscherer (@michaelscherer) December 13, 2017
Until then at least, McConnell still has Strange around, and business to conduct. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Schumer might not get his wish. Word out of the conference committee negotiations is that the corporate rate may creep up to 21% after all, but not to get more money back to working-class taxpayers. Instead, they plan to use the revenue to lower the top-end brackets:
Senior Republican negotiators were moving closer to a deal Tuesday to reduce the top tax rate for high-income households from 39.6 percent to 37 percent, blowing by political concerns about aiding the rich in order to ease passage of a $1.5 trillion tax package.
The move, which needs to gain the support of a broad swath of Republicans in the House and Senate, would lower taxes for top earners throughout the country, potentially addressing the concerns of two GOP constituencies about separate tax legislation passed by the House and Senate. …
Amid GOP negotiations earlier Tuesday, the other most significant change under consideration was to the corporate tax rate, which lawmakers now plan to reduce to 21 percent instead of 20 percent. The corporate tax rate is currently 35 percent.
That news floored Marco Rubio, who proposed an amendment with Mike Lee to the Senate bill to raise the corporate tax rate to 20.94% as a way to lower the tax burden on lower-income brackets. Rubio blasted the move on Twitter last night:
20.94% Corp. rate to pay for tax cut for working family making $40k was anti-growth but 21% to cut tax for couples making $1million is fine?
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) December 12, 2017
Word out of Capitol Hill is that the House and Senate conferees have agreed on the final form of the tax bill that will be presented to both chambers. The changes floated out over the last couple of days may lose votes in the Senate — Rubio and Lee perhaps, as well as Susan Collins who also expressed dismay over this change — that will render Schumer’s request moot, too. Mitch McConnell can only afford to lose two Republican votes, and he’s already down one with Bob Corker. Ron Johnson and Jeff Flake also nearly derailed the bill in a procedural vote over its heavy business tilt, and this won’t make them any happier, either.
However, faced with the consequences of yet another failure on their agenda and promises, perhaps McConnell and Paul Ryan can whip together enough votes in each chamber to pass the bill. The political fallout from failure would probably be worse than dealing with the bill’s consequences down the line. Both men will need to get this through Congress as fast as possible before too many questions arise over it, but don’t be too surprised if enough opposition to the bill arises to make Schumer’s wish come true, either.