TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, December 2, 2017

NY Times:  A Hasty, Hand-Scribbled Tax Bill Sets Off An Outcry

BillNew York Times, A Hasty, Hand-Scribbled Tax Bill Sets Off an Outcry:

By midafternoon on Friday, Republicans had the votes to pass their tax bill in the Senate. What they did not have was a bill.

The legislation, covering nearly 500 pages, finally surfaced well after the sun had set. It appeared first in the lobbying shops of K Street, which sent back copies to some Democrats in the Senate, who took to social media to protest being asked to vote in a matter of hours on a bill that had yet to be shared with them directly.

The drafts that leaked to journalists included changes scrawled in looping handwriting in the margins. Democrats posted screenshots and accompanying complaints. Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana, called it “Washington D.C. at its worst” in a video in which he held up a page of the bill with the changes. “This is unbelievable, we’re doing massive tax reform on an absolute incredible timeline,” he said. “This is going to affect everybody in this country.”

With Republicans intent on passing a bill along party lines, public protests have been Democrats’ only weapon throughout the lightning-fast progression of the bill over the last month. The minority party has no ability to stop the bill, because Republicans are employing a Senate tactic that allows them to bypass a Democratic filibuster. The first version of the tax plan was introduced in the House on Nov. 1 and approved two weeks later; the Senate is on course to match that pace.

That would be a compressed schedule in any event, but it was particularly so on Friday, as Republicans inserted several last-second amendments to secure majority support for their bill. Democrats could only scold and work up a frenzy on social media. ...

“Republicans are reaching heretofore unreached heights of hypocrisy,” Mr. Schumer said, “and the Senate is descending to a new low of chicanery.”

Tax, Tax Policy in the Trump Administration | Permalink


What do you expect to happen when you use enact multi-trillion dollar legislation using every procedural trick and budget scoring trick in the book, adding as many special provisions as needed to buy the last few votes, all without getting a single vote from the other party?

We already know the answer, from Obamacare. The other party will win enough legislative seats to prevent any planned cleanup of defects, and that's exactly what they will do. The result is an amplification of the defects and a blame game.

Contrast this with what happens when you take a bipartisan approach, as in the 1986 Tax Reform. Both parties get some of what they want. Everyone is happy. Then the political winds shift and suddenly one party decides to renege on the deal, ending the Grand Bargain with no support at all from the other party.

Between these two approaches I may prefer the first. At least it doesn't carry a false promise of durability.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Dec 2, 2017 10:40:17 AM

No one complained when liberal legislation was drafted like this.

Posted by: mike livingston | Dec 3, 2017 4:34:01 AM

Fools. Everyone knows you have to pass the bill before you can know what's in it.

How a Bill Becomes a Law 101.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 3, 2017 8:09:32 PM

mike: "No one complained when liberal legislation was drafted like this."

Quite the opposite, they bragged to the press that it was their preferred method of legislative action. Or foreign policy decision-making. : )

Posted by: MM | Dec 4, 2017 7:27:53 AM