Democrats Say Election is Warning to GOP on Taxes

Citing Tuesday election results, minority party urges redirection

From left, House Ways and Means ranking member Richard Neal, D-Mass., Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., Senate Finance ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., hold a press conference on tax reform outside of the House Ways and Means hearing room in the Longworth House Office Building. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Democrats were quick on Wednesday to use the results of Tuesday’s elections to pressure Republicans to drop their attempt to pass an overhaul of the U.S. tax code with support only from within the GOP.

The GOP lost two gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, and gained seats at the state and local level across the country. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer says those results signal a rebuke of the current Republican agenda, including taxes and health care.

“The election results should be a stop sign for Republican efforts to pass their tax bill,” the New York Democrat told reporters. “Middle class suburbs, upper middle class suburbs are the places that would get crushed by this bill.”

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee are writing the tax overhaul behind closed doors, but will advance it through the regular committee process — including a markup that will provide Democrats the chance to influence the final bill. A chairman’s mark is expected to be released on Thursday.

Republicans believe many of the Democratic senators up for re-election in 2018 could end up backing the tax bill and the White House continues to lobby them. Several members of that group — including Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Joe Donnelly of Indiana — are keeping open the possibility of supporting the measure.

“Every member is going to make up his or her mind,” Schumer said.

But Democrats by and large continue to blast the process the GOP is using to advance a bill, utilizing the fast-track budget reconciliation process to try to pass the legislation with only Republican support.

“They are doing it the wrong way and focusing on the wrong priorities,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said.

Schumer, Kaine and other Democrats have targeted their attacks against proposed changes to the state and local tax deduction, as well as other popular deductions slated for elimination, like for student loans and medical expenses. 

While the House bill would still allow individuals to deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes, Senate Republicans are considering a full repeal. Because the deduction is primarily used by mainly Democratic-leaning, high tax states — like New York, California and Illinois — it is a far more contentious issue for GOP House members in blue states.

Schumer, on Wednesday, highlighted several House members — including Reps. Peter Roskam of Illinois and Barbara Comstock of Virginia — he said could be politically damaged by voting for the bill that would overhaul SALT.

Comstock “would write her own defeat if she votes for this bill,” Schumer said.

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