December 06,2017

Press Contact:

Rachel McCleery (202) 224-4515

Wyden Statement on Senate Floor on Republican Tax Plan Conference

As Prepared for Delivery

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., delivered a statement on the Senate floor ahead of the vote to go to conference with the House on the Republican tax plan: 

“Today the Senate is going to debate whether to go to conference with the House to resolve the differences between the two tax plans Republicans have passed. But make no mistake -- the Conference Committee that will meet in the days ahead is nothing more than theater. It won’t be a real effort to have an honest debate in the light of day.

“The truth is, Republicans from the House and Senate are hashing out their differences right now behind closed doors. They’re packing the bill with even more goodies and loopholes for special interests. There is no telling what swamp creatures have crawled their way up Capitol Hill to get their fingers on this bill at the eleventh hour. The basic proposition on offer -- taking money and health care away from middle class Americans to pay for tax cuts for multinational corporations and the politically powerful -- that proposition isn’t going to change.

“And now the Trump administration is calling for even more speed -- even more secrecy -- just so the president can claim a victory and Republicans in Congress can appease mega-donors frustrated by a sputtering agenda.”

Wyden’s full remarks as prepared for delivery

The Republican tax plan is racing to completion in secrecy and shame. Republicans are finishing it in secret because it is a shameful scheme the American people overwhelmingly oppose.

Today the Senate is going to debate whether to go to conference with the House to resolve the differences between the two tax plans Republicans have passed. But make no mistake -- the Conference Committee that will meet in the days ahead is nothing more than theater. It won’t be a real effort to have an honest debate in the light of day.

The truth is, Republicans from the House and Senate are hashing out their differences right now behind closed doors. They’re packing the bill with even more goodies and loopholes for special interests. There is no telling what swamp creatures have crawled their way up Capitol Hill to get their fingers on this bill at the eleventh hour. The basic proposition on offer -- taking money and health care away from middle class Americans to pay for tax cuts for multinational corporations and the politically powerful -- that proposition isn’t going to change.

And now the Trump administration is calling for even more speed -- even more secrecy -- just so the president can claim a victory and Republicans in Congress can appease mega-donors frustrated by a sputtering agenda. 

What unfolded here last week is a black mark on the United States Senate. It was the climax of a process marred by recklessness and partisanship.

Senators came to this floor on Wednesday and Thursday prepared for a debate that was already going to be cut short by the partisan “reconciliation” process. Just 20 hours, evenly divided between the two sides.

But Wednesday turned into Thursday, and there was no final Republican bill. Then Thursday turned into Friday, and still Republicans had their plan hidden in the shadows.

Then, late on Friday, in the dark of night, Republicans dropped a new version of a 500 page bill with no real opportunity for review or debate. Special interest handouts were air dropped in at the very last minute -- huge giveaways to hedge funds and oil and gas companies.

Unintelligible lines were scrawled into the margins -- the kind of sloppy, haphazard work that a school teacher would give a failing grade.

That was the process Republicans called regular order -- a full and honest debate. Ten trillion dollars of tax changes, and Republicans played hide the ball with their tax plan until the last minute.

The fact is, there was not a single hearing on the specifics of that legislation. There was no bipartisan input. No member of this body can possibly claim to have read what they were voting on.

And now, that recklessness is only continuing. Republicans are sticking with the con job on the middle class as they work out the differences between their plans behind closed doors. Whatever product comes out of those negotiations is still going to raise taxes on millions of middle class Americans and drive a dagger in the heart of the Affordable Care Act, all to pay for corporate handouts. It’s still going to give a bigger tax cut to corporations that ship jobs overseas than it will give to corporations that create red-white-and-blue jobs.

What ought to cause even more alarm for Americans over the coming weeks are the special interest goodies that are still being packed in -- the handouts nobody knows about yet.

Down on K Street, they are licking their chops as they read the bill Republicans wrote so quickly and carelessly. Scheming tax lawyers are already planning their next moves.

And according to reports, the big sticking point in the negotiations between Republicans isn’t how to help families or how to protect health care. They’re debating whether to make the corporate handouts even bigger. They’re already slashing the corporate rate down to 20 percent -- now they’re debating whether corporations should actually be required to pay it.

Colleagues, the American people do NOT want this plan to become law. It’s hard to write a tax cut bill this unpopular, but Republicans managed to do it. I spent last weekend in town halls and in meetings with people back home in Oregon. Based on those conversations, I can promise every member of this body -- the American people know what’s coming next.

The Republican deficit hawks who flew away when the proposition of a 1.5 trillion dollar, budget-busting tax bill came up -- they’re going to come flying back in over the horizon. There’s going to be a whole lot of frightening Republican talk about the fiscal crisis facing the nation, exploding deficits, and spending run amok. In fact, Republicans haven’t even waited for this tax plan to become law before cracking out the fiscal crisis talking points.

The president’s standing up at rallies and talking on national television about turning to “entitlement reform” and “welfare reform.” It’s a whole lot of focus-group tested code for cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. That’s what’s next on his slash-and-burn to-do list.

What about here in Congress? Speaker Ryan said a few weeks ago that, “We’ve got a lot of work to do in cutting spending.” Ways and Means Chairman Brady talked about, “...welfare reform and tackling the entitlements.” The right-wing Freedom Caucus is already using this tax bill to try to lock in promises on spending cuts later this year, and nobody knows what secret guarantees they’ve been given.

Last week, as Republicans are getting ready to spend a trillion and a half dollars on handouts to corporations, Chairman Hatch said “We're spending ourselves into bankruptcy” and blasted what he called “liberal programs” for the poor. He said that when it comes to helping the vulnerable, “...we don’t have money anymore.”

And then there was Senator Toomey’s comment last week, made on this floor, that there was “no secret plan” to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

I’ve got to give my friend from Pennsylvania credit for his honesty, because he’s right about one thing -- they’re not keeping this plan a secret! Republicans are talking about it right out in the open.

Colleagues, I’ll close with this. The American people do not want this Republican tax plan to become law. They understand what’s happening here -- that working people and the middle class are being forced to pay for handouts to multinational corporations. That the Republican plan puts the interests of the politically connected above the interests of hardworking families.

And the American people will stand up and fight against any fear-mongering attack launched by so-called deficit hawks on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs.

It is not too late for my Republican colleagues to change course. Instead of going to a sham conference, the Senate can have a real bipartisan debate on a tax plan that will give every American a chance to get ahead.

###