On the Brink of Calamity: The GOP Tax Plan Takes Center Stage
The United States Senate parliamentarian is an attorney named Elizabeth MacDonough. Her role, and the role of her staff, is to advice the Senate on proper interpretation of both the Standing Rules and parliamentary procedure. Write down her name and remember it well, for it is entirely possible that she just saved us all a hell of a lot of grief.The pestilence passing itself off as the Senate GOP's tax bill was brought to the floor at 10:30 am on Thursday for what is called the "vote-a-rama," which amounts to many hours of debate over the bill itself as well as amendments that may be added. Once those hours are up, the final vote takes place … except, nope, not last night. Full stop and back to committee, suddenly, a little before dinnertime last night.Why? A 11th-hour report by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation stated yesterday afternoon that the GOP tax plan, as currently constituted, would add a trillion dollars to the deficit. Senate Republicans knew this already, of course; they just didn't want you to know. Notorious deficit hawk Bob Corker of Tennessee had insisted the bill come with triggers that would raise some taxes to offset any increases in the deficit down the line, should the GOP's rosy economic predictions not come to full bloom.Parliamentarian MacDonough weighed in at this point and promptly scrambled everyone's eggs: No, Corker's trigger plan is not allowed under Senate rules, and if they keep the triggers in the bill, they will need 60 votes for passage instead of 51. As this thing is already hanging by a thread with only 51 votes needed, a 60-vote threshold would spell certain doom. Faced with the need to satisfy Corker, the Senate voted to throw the legislation back into committee until 11 am today.Quite out of nowhere, the tax bill -- which had appeared to be cruising toward surprisingly easy passage -- was in peril. "Thursday evening, senators were eyeing a wide range of options to move legislation forward," according to the Washington Post. "They are discussing adding higher taxes on upper-income Americans and modestly rolling back the bill's large corporate tax cut. But they did not have an obvious solution, given the need to add hundreds of billions of revenue back into the bill."And let's hear it for the parliamentarian.As the moments tick by toward a final vote (or not; it could be another one of those days), let's take a moment to survey the terrain. The Republican "tax plan," now divided between an already-passed House bill and the currently pending Senate legislation, is a shameless nightmare of lies and greed the likes of which have not been seen by any living person on the North American continent.If passed, reconciled and signed by Trump, this legislation will leave tens of millions of people beaten, baffled and bereft. With this, they establish a permanent inheritor class whose wealth will be so vast and untouchable that they can buy every election -- local, state and federal -- from here on out. This is not simply a tax bill: It is the last stage of a corporate coup that has been slow-walking its intentions for decades. With this bill, they're stomping on the gas:
* The overwhelming majority of the tax cuts are given to the wealthy and to corporations. The rest of us get a tax increase a few years from now to pay for this gift to the rich.* Medicare will be slashed by $250 billion over 10 years, again to pay for the vast sums being sent up the ladder.* This bill gives more than $500 billion to foreign investors over the next 10 years, clearly making America great again in the process. Know any poor or middle-class folks who could use half a trillion dollars right here at home?* The bill is also an attack on education: College loan deductions are eliminated, and deductions for teachers who have to buy their own school supplies are gone.* On Thursday, the Koch network warned the Senate not to add an amendment that would help poor families eat, if doing so increased corporate taxes in any way.* The individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is eliminated, which basically means the ACA itself is eliminated, depriving millions of affordable health insurance. People will die because of this one -- you can count on it.* Churches have been barred from endorsing candidates and getting directly involved in politics since 1954. The House version of this tax bill would eliminate that restriction, which is already widely ignored by a number of highly political churches and religious organizations. This provision opens a huge campaign finance loophole for the GOP. Can't give any more to a candidate? Give to some right-wing megachurches with audiences in the tens of thousands and have them endorse your candidate. Praise the Lord and pass the plate.* Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was one of the crew that defected during the ACA repeal tussle earlier this year. She has decided, this time around, that destroying the ACA and gutting Medicare are fine with her because in return, the oil and mining industries get to ravage the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, just like they've always wanted. With friends like these…The senators who bucked Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell during the ACA fight do not appear to be lining up for a reprise this time around. Murkowski, as stated, was bought off for the price of ANWR. Sen. John McCain of Arizona has signaled he will also vote "Yes," reportedly because the wind was blowing out of the southeast yesterday morning at approximately 5 miles per hour. The rest of the questionables -- among them Senators Bob Corker, Susan Collins and Rand Paul -- have, as of this printing, not yet made their full intentions known.There are 52 individual Republican senators who traveled 52 different paths to arrive in that chamber this morning, but all of them are there for the same single reason: to pass some version of this bill and deliver a payday to their paymasters. Period, end of file. They don't care about the deficit, the country, freedom, you, me or anything else. This is their magnum opus, their one and only purpose in life. Like salmon swimming upstream to spawn, they may die in the shallows or be eaten by bears, but they will spend themselves to get this done because it is their fundamental nature.
This page will be updated as circumstances warrant. Stay tuned.
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