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Democrats Push GOP to Delay Tax Talks After Alabama

But Republican tax conference committee is full speed ahead

Alabama Democrat Doug Jones's victory in the Senate race to replace Jeff Sessions could scramble the legislative calculus. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Alabama Democrat Doug Jones's victory in the Senate race to replace Jeff Sessions could scramble the legislative calculus. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Democrats were quick to call on Republicans to delay their efforts to rewrite the tax code, saying Doug Jones’ victory in Tuesday’s special Senate election in Alabama is a sign from voters that needs to be heeded.

“The vote on the tax bill should be postponed. The voice of Alabamians should be heard on this and Doug Jones should have a chance to weigh in,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez told reporters Wednesday.

Perez spoke before Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, who had much the same message. Flanked by a chart with quotes from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dating to the aftermath of the election of Republican Scott P. Brown in Massachusetts, the New York Democrat highlighted concerns about the bill among suburban voters.

“Today, we Senate Democrats are calling on Mitch McConnell to hit pause on his tax bill,” Schumer said. “It would be wrong for Senate Republicans to jam through this tax bill without allowing the duly-elected senator from Alabama to cast his vote.”

Schumer Calls on McConnell to Delay Tax Vote Until Jones is Seated

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But all signs indicated the calls would be falling on deaf ears. If anything, Republicans are now under even more pressure to wrap up the tax conference before Christmas, while Sen. Luther Strange, the appointed GOP senator from Alabama, remains eligible to vote.

In 2010, then-Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada delayed further action on the health care overhaul so Brown could be seated. That decision cost Democrats their 60th vote in the Senate, and made it more difficult to change the health package because of the loss of their filibuster-proof margin.

Republicans claim the Brown example is different because they argue that election in Massachusetts was more a referendum on health care. 

After Brown was sworn in, Democrats used the budget reconciliation process — which allows legislation to pass with simply majorities in the Senate — to finish their work on health care. 

They further argue that McConnell announced prior to Tuesday’s election what the timeline for the tax overhaul would be and they are likely to stick to it.

Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee and thus a tax conferee, said likewise in a morning Tweet.

“The people of Alabama have spoken. Republicans and the administration must drop their partisan attempts to rush a corporate handout through Congress until Senator-Elect Jones is sworn in,” the Oregon senator said.

Ahead of a lunch meeting with at the White House among President Donald Trump and GOP tax conferees, Republicans were showing no signs of slowing down.

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas told Roll Call that the meeting at the White House would be to allow conferees to “update the president” on the House-Senate negotiations.

Simone Pathe and John T. Bennett contributed to this report.

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