In a truly wild and dizzying Friday night and Saturday morning in Washington, Senate Republicans committed collective political suicide by passing a deeply detested tax bill they were still writing seemingly moments before they jammed it through on a party-line vote with no hearings and no meaningful input from a public that hasn't even seen the text of the legislation.
As dawn broke Friday over the undrained swamp, it looked like the tax legislation was still in trouble, with Republican Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), and Susan Collins (Maine) all wavering. And as of Friday night, the text of this bill, which will restructure the entire American tax system and its economy, had not yet been released to the public, leaving Democratic senators and outside analysts guessing as to which radioactive provisions would be in it, which would be left out, and exactly where various tax levels would be set. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) tweeted a photo Friday evening of amendments that would be voted on shortly and that she had to obtain from lobbyists rather than her colleagues across the aisle. The absurdity was almost unspeakable.
As the day wound down, Senate holdouts, especially those who were lionized by the left as principled heroes during July's failed ObamaCare vote, had fallen in line and said they would vote to slash taxes on corporations, trustafarians, and hedge fund managers while raising them on poor, working-class, and middle-class Americans. Together these titans of high-minded values said they were okay with their colleagues' plan to peel a bunch of hundred dollar bills off of America's dwindling wad of national cash and stuff them directly into the pockets of their billionaire bankrollers.
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Regular order? On Wednesday, John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced he was fine sending this diabolical, 479-page Dybbuk through the Senate even though no one in the chamber had time to read it even once. Democratic pleas to at least postpone the vote until Monday so that our national leaders might actually skim the legislation were ignored. Protecting Medicaid for vulnerable Alaskans? When it came time to screw the poor, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was totally cool with it as long as she could trash the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with oil drilling in return. Collins, who was wavering Thursday, voted for the bill in the end, all but giving the finger to the Mainers who gave her those airport standing ovations after she stopped TrumpCare. Flake got on board when the White House made some meaningless promise to him that he would be part of any "conversation" about a DACA resolution later this year. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was the only final holdout.
At the end of the day, Republicans revealed that their entire caucus is bereft of dignity, shame, honor, and any commitment to a single thing any of them have ever said in public about how laws should be made in the United States.
Whatever adjustments Republicans made to pass the bill, the basics of this atrocity are pretty straightforward: It will permanently slash the corporate tax rate, even though American companies are swimming in record rivulets of cash profits. That rate may go up over time to satisfy the deficit hawks, but it will ultimately end up at a much lower endpoint than it's at today. The bill will eliminate the inheritance tax, allowing denizens of Richistan to reproduce the Trump family dynamic of billionaire thieves passing their ill-gotten largesse in gigantic lump sums to their own shiftless children. To pay for this pointless handout to people with third homes in Jackson Hole, Republicans also eliminated or reduced a series of popular tax deductions and incentives almost exclusively for people that voted against them. The tax code has been weaponized.
And of course, Senate Republicans included a gratuitous repeal of ObamaCare's individual mandate, something that will save the government billions by ultimately pushing about 13 million people out of the insurance market altogether and will spike premiums for everyone else in the exchange markets. The whole sordid thing will add roughly $1 trillion or more to the deficit over the next decade, according to the Fake News Congressional Budget Office and the Failing Non-Partisan Joint Committee on Taxation. I could bore you with a thousand quotes from GOP leaders during the Obama administration about how the national debt is the dingo that will eat your baby for breakfast, the demon that will possess your grandchildren and rob them of their prosperity, but do I really have to? All you need to know is that if these Republicans saw a balanced budget drowning in an icy river, they would whistle while they walked right by it. They literally never cared.
On Wednesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) inadvertently revealed the truth about the underlying purpose of this tax bill. "We have to generate economic growth which generates revenue while reducing spending," he told Politico. "That will mean instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future." In other words, these tomb raiders know exactly the effect that their squalid little gambit will have on the long-term federal budget. What they really want is to force future legislators to perform unpopular cuts in essential services and social welfare programs after the impact of the GOP's reckless legislation creates an asteroid-sized crater in America's long-term fiscal health.
It is President Trump's tainted signature that will ultimately adorn this horror show of a tax bill, President Trump's universally loathed visage that will incompetently explain the bill to the American people, and Trump's legacy to which congressional Republicans will be forever tied. There will be no escape from the dreadful economic and political consequences.
Republicans might feel satisfied with themselves this morning. After all, they just pulled off one of the greatest and darkest cons in American political history — lashing themselves to the faux-populist campaign of their deteriorating maniac president, who promised to return American government to the people, work for the little guy, and "drain the swamp," only to see him turn around and subcontract American economic policy to Wall Street lobbyists, Goldman Sachs executives, and Heritage Foundation zealots. A president who promised to raise taxes on the rich, fight for America first, and preserve or expand the social safety net may soon sign a bill that does precisely the opposite of all three. Even the hardcore #MAGA crowd might eventually see through this scam.
It is worth noting that Senate Republicans still might have Jonestowned themselves for nothing, as this last-minute monstrosity must get worked out with House Republicans in committee and then put through both chambers again for floor votes. They will have to endure at least another week of voters finding rancid little pieces of coal under their tax Christmas tree, and to figure out ways to deny the obvious: that they have sold out the American people for nothing.
There will be hell to pay for what happened last night, and the worst is still clearly yet to come.
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