Carper Statement on Finance Committee Markup on Senate Republican Tax Plan

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, released the following statement on the committee’s markup of the Senate Republican tax plan. 

“For more than nine years, since I first joined this Committee, I’ve wanted to do tax reform. I’ve always believed that a sensible, equitable, fiscally responsible tax overhaul would help grow our economy, create good-paying jobs, and boost wages so more families have a better shot at the American dream.

“I have a great deal of respect for our Chairman, Senator Hatch, and for our friends on the other side of the aisle. Many of us have worked together for a long time. Unfortunately, however, the process used to try and force this tax bill across the finish line is not a credit to the bipartisan tradition of this Committee. We can—and, more importantly, we should—do better than this.

“I was here when this Committee wrote the Affordable Care Act. I recall that our friends on the other side of the aisle objected, claiming that Congress was moving ‘too fast’ in trying to ‘remake one-sixth’ of the economy. A closer review of the process we used then suggests otherwise. We didn’t move too fast. In fact, in the year before this Committee passed the ACA, more than a dozen bipartisan hearings were held on the health reform proposal that became the ACA. We held multiple bipartisan roundtables and several bipartisan options papers were published. In addition, there were detailed, exhaustive negotiations with three senior Democratic members and three senior Republican members of this Committee that lasted for months.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had no hearings on this tax reform proposal. None. We’ve held no bipartisan negotiations. None. We’ve held no bipartisan roundtables. None. The proposals in this bill, which was released just four days ago, attempt to remake 100 percent of the economy. Meanwhile, the public has been told next to nothing about how this legislation affects them.

“A truly bipartisan effort would not involve ramming through such imperfect legislation on a partisan vote using the Reconciliation process. A truly bipartisan effort would have begun months ago. It would have been done through regular order, with bipartisan engagement, with careful and thoughtful negotiations occurring over months. A truly bipartisan effort would have been open and inclusive, with Members of both parties sitting at the table. Unfortunately, none of that applies to the process used here.

“This process stands in stark contrast to the bipartisan efforts led by Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Patty Murray on the HELP Committee to find bipartisan solutions to stabilizing the health care exchanges.

“It’s not surprising that a flawed process has produced a flawed product. This isn’t the kind of bipartisan tax reform we should be doing.

“As my colleagues may recall, when considering any tax policy, I look at it through a prism of four questions. The first question is: Is it fair?

“In answer to that question, I’m afraid that this tax bill will likely increase taxes on millions of middle class families beginning next year. I fear that this bill will make it harder for many Americans to buy a home. I fear that this bill will imperil state and local funding for education and funding for health care, as well as for college aid and job training, and for transportation, and for first responders, and for so many other crucial services. 

“Yet, there is somehow enough fiscal room in this bill to offer large tax cuts to high-income households and many corporations. This bill makes it easier for family dynasties to give inheritances to their wealthy heirs. This bill cuts the top tax rate, and eliminates the required minimum tax for the wealthiest Americans. None of this meets my definition of ‘fairness.’

“The second question I always ask when faced with a tax reform proposal is: Does it foster economic growth and job creation?

“It’s hard to separate the economic effects from the large deficits that this bill would create. As more and more Federal debt piles up as a result of this tax bill, interest rates are likely to rise—making it harder and harder for Americans to buy a home, finance a higher education, or run a business.

“This bill also includes reforms to the international tax system, but lacks the necessary guardrails to prevent the offshoring of American jobs, and the offshoring of our tax base. As more American jobs go overseas as a result of this bill, and as more corporate profits are shifted overseas as a result of this bill, Americans will be looking back at this moment—at this point in time—at this process in Congress—and they will know who is to blame.

“The third question I always ask when faced with a tax reform proposal is: Does it make the tax code simpler or more complex?

“I’d support a well-designed proposal to double the standard deduction, as this bill does. But there’s still more work to be done to make the tax code simpler. Unfortunately, this bill introduces new and complicated provisions—for example, new requirements to claim the child tax credit—that will make it difficult for Americans to file their taxes.

“The fourth question I ask is: Is it fiscally responsible? Absolutely not. This bill blows a 1.5 trillion-dollar hole in the debt. And it will wind-up being far costlier than that, as the deficits continue to grow in the years and decades ahead. Today, we have a 666 billion-dollar federal deficit. Eight years into the longest running economic expansion of our country, the last thing we need to do is run up the deficit. When our economy is expanding, we should reduce the deficit. Truth be told, exploding our deficits to pay for a tax break for the wealthiest people in this country is not just unnecessary, it’s unconscionable.

“Not a single senator up here is opposed to every single thing in this bill. But the bulk of this bill is, frankly, unacceptable. It is not good for the American economy, American families, American workers, American businesses, American children. And its cost will be borne by future generations.

“I implore the Chairman and my friends on the other side of the aisle: Let’s go back to the drawing board and start new, on a real bipartisan basis. Let’s write something that can be permanent, that will endure. Let’s write a tax reform that is truly fair, fosters broad-based economic growth, is simpler and is fiscally responsible. Let’s do tax reform right. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”