Before the Senate Finance Committee called the vote on the Republican tax plan, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) wanted his colleagues to acknowledge one thing: This wasn’t a tax cut for the middle class.
“Spare us the bank shots; spare us the sarcasm and the satire,” he told Senate Finance Chair Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT):
I think it would be nice just tonight to just acknowledge that this tax cut is really not for the middle class; it’s for the rich. And that whole thing about higher wages, well, it’s a good selling point, but we know companies don’t just give higher wages — they don’t just give away higher wages just because they have more money. Corporations are sitting on a lot of money. They are sitting on a lot of profits now — I don’t see wages going up.
Brown, who has tried to establish himself as the leading Democratic voice for the working class, hit a nerve with Hatch, the veteran Republican who oversaw the bill’s light-speed markup through committee this week.
Sherrod Brown really takes the fight to Orrin Hatch here. No Trumpian namecalling or low blows. Instead focusing on the GOP helping only the ultra-rich. Judging by how mad Hatch got, Brown hit a soft spot. pic.twitter.com/WxDFb8ipHB— Adam Best (@adamcbest) November 17, 2017
What ensued was a shouting match far beyond the policy specifics of the Republican tax bill.
“I come from the poor people, and I have been here working my whole stinking career for people who don’t have a chance, and I really resent anybody who says I’m just doing this for the rich — give me a break,” Hatch said.
Listen I have honored you by allowing you to spout off here, and what you’ve said is not right. I come from the lower middle class originally. We didn’t have anything, so don’t spew that stuff on me. I get a little tired of crap.
But the reality is a bit more clear-cut: Brown’s attack isn’t off base.
Republicans are pushing through a tax bill that gives corporations a permanent tax cut, in large part paid for by tax increases and health care cuts for individuals, in addition to what they say will be huge economic growth. The bill’s tax cuts and benefits for individual Americans would almost all sunset in eight years. That includes the increased child tax credit, the doubled standard deduction, the estate tax cut, the repeal of the alternative minimum tax, and even the tax break for pass-through business income.
A recent distributional analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation found that the Senate’s proposal, which sunsets the individual tax reforms to pay for a corporate tax cut, would raise taxes for families who earn less than $75,000 when these cuts sunset.
Republicans will almost certainly argue that the bill is meant to be made permanent before the individual cuts expire in 2026, that they only expire to comply with Senate budget rules, and that it’s misleading to analyze the effects assuming the cuts expire — but they are making clear that their priority is to make cuts to corporations permanent, while putting the future taxes of individual Americans in limbo.
All of this makes an easy line of attack from Democrats, like Brown, to say Republicans are raising taxes on the middle class while giving a massive tax cut to corporations.
Hatch, however, doesn’t want to hear it.