It was on December 19, 2017, when Republicans had full control of the Senate and House and the Presidency that the House and Senate voted strictly on party lines to pass the most sweeping rewrite of the Unites States tax code in decades. It was a $1.5 trillion tax bill which former President Trump signed.
REPUBLICANS PASS TAX REWRITE WITHOUT DEMOCRATS
Under the final tax bill, the corporate tax rate fell from 35% to 21%. Individuals saw a tax cut, including a top rate of 37%, down from 39.6%. The size of inheritances shielded from estate taxation doubled to $22 million for married couples, and owners of pass-through businesses, whose profits are taxed through the individual code, were able to deduct 20% of their business income. The individual tax cuts will expire after 2025.
The tax changes affected businesses and individuals unevenly, with winners and losers often being determined by industry or geography. An analysis by the Tax Policy Center found that the bill reduced taxes, on average, by about $1,600 in 2018, increasing after-tax incomes 2.2%, with the largest benefit going to the wealthiest households.
The reach of the bill extended beyond taxes and at the core component of the Affordable Care Act. It eliminated the requirement that most people have health coverage or pay a penalty. The Congressional Budget Office projected that it increased premiums for people who buy insurance. It also opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas drilling, a defeat for environmentalists who have fought against such action for decades. The tax cuts also had broad effects and were detrimental to many social programs that would be cut to make up for the tax cuts.
The approval of the bill in the House and Senate came over the strenuous objections of Democrats, who accused Republicans of giving a gift to corporations and the wealthy and driving up the federal debt in the process.
DEMOCRATS GIVE REPUBLICANS PAYBACK
On March 6, 2021, the US Senate approved the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan on a 50-49 vote without a single Republican vote. The Senate passed the bill through budget reconciliation, a process that required no Republican support but every Democratic vote. Senate progressive Democratic leaders had to compromise with more moderate Senate democrats to win unified support while trying to balance the need to keep nearly all House Democrats on board to pass the plan.
The relief measure includes a new round of up-to $1,400 stimulus checks for millions of Americans, $350 billion for cash-strapped cities and states, $130 billion for schools, and other sizable sums for a wide array of programs including food assistance, rental relief and coronavirus vaccine distribution.
The bill also authorizes an additional $300-per-week in unemployment payments until early September, trimming the amount that House Democrats initially had approved earlier in the month. The bill will now be returned to the House for approval of Senate changes.
The Senate passed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package as the Democrats are rushing to send out another fresh round of aid. The Democratic-held House wants to pass it and send it to President Joe Biden for his signature before a March 14 deadline to renew unemployment aid programs.
The legislation includes direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans, a $300 weekly boost to jobless benefits into September and an expansion of the child tax credit for one year. It also puts new funding into Covid-19 vaccine distribution and testing, rental assistance for struggling households and K-12 schools for reopening costs.
Senate approval brings Biden’s first legislative initiative closer to fruition. While the GOP and some economists criticized the scope of the rescue package as the U.S. vaccination pace picked up, Democrats said they needed decisive action to prevent a sluggish recovery and future economic pain.
VOTER’S BI-PARTISAN SUPPORT
On March 3, it was reported that in a survey conducted from February 26 to March 1 by Morning Consult/Politico, showed strong bipartisan support for the $1.9 Trillion measure despite the increase in Republican attacks on its size, scope and price tag.
According to the poll 77% of voters backed the stimulus plan when its Democratic origin was not disclosed vs. 71% who did so when Democratic sponsorship label was disclosed.
59% of GOP voters say they support the $1.9 trillion stimulus package and 53% of GOP voters who were told it was the Democrats’ plan still backed it.
PRESIDENT BIIDENS REACTS
President Joe Biden praised the Senate’s passage of his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan calling it “one more giant step forward” on promises he made on the campaign trail to send aid to millions of Americans suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The relief package not only contains $1,400 relief checks but an extension of federal unemployment benefits, and billions of dollars for vaccine development and distribution. Biden had this to say:
“Today I can say we’ve taken one more giant step forward in delivering on the promise help is on the way. … The bottom line is this: this plan puts us on a path to beating this virus. ”
President Biden congratulated Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for getting Senate passage. The Senate worked for more than 27 straight hours as it made its final deliberations on the package. Biden said:
“I’ve never seen anyone work as skillfully, as ably, as patiently with determination to deliver such a consequential piece of legislation.”
Biden made a swipe at former President Donald Trump without saying his name when he said he was “going to get the government out of the business of battling on Twitter and back in the business of delivering for the American people.”
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
When the Republican party rammed the 2017 $1.5 Trillion tax cuts through congress, they did so with the budget reconciliation process. At the time, the Republicans bragged about the tax cuts saying it would stimulate the economy, create jobs and would be refunding taxpayers money the government did not need.
The truth is, the Republican tax cuts benefited mostly the wealthiest in the country and major corporations and was the largest shift in wealth in the country’s history and to the wealthy. The Republican tax cuts did little to help the middle class. When the tax cuts were signed off by then President Trump, it was reported that he told wealthy donors at functions that he had just saved them millions.
COMIC RELIEF FROM THE REPUBLCAN SENATE CLOWN CAR
Fast forward to 2021 when Democrats hold the majorities in both the House and Senate as well as the Presidency.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had this to say about the passage of the relief bill:
“The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard way, or through a less rigorous process. … Voters gave Senate Democrats the slimmest possible majority. Voters picked a president who promised unity and bipartisanship,” he continued, noting Democrats instead had opted to “ram through” their stimulus bill.
During the past 4 years when he was majority leader, the word “bipartisanship” was never used by Moscow Mitch and he has already forgotten what he did in 2017 when he rammed the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts through the senate knowing full well his ultimate goal has always been to cut entitlement programs such as social security and Medicare as the long-term goal to pay for the Republican tax cuts.
It was comical the lengths to which many Republican Senators went to try and defeat the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan.
Republican Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson stood alongside a poster board with a series of details about the literal, physical size of a stack of a trillion $1 bills. Johnson told his fellow senators that such a stack would be 67,866 miles high. Johnson said:
“That is what we are debating: spending. … A stack of dollar bills that extends more than halfway the distance to the moon.”
To make his case, Johnson also added that a stack of singles representing the entirety of the U.S. national debt would bring us even closer to Earth’s moon.
Johnson later demanded the reading out loud of the full text of the 628-page bill, which took hours while he was the sole member present in the Senate’s chamber except for a rotating series of Democrats who served as the body’s presiding officer.
Republican Louisiana Senator John Kennedy said about more rounds of stimulus payments:
“Well people in hell want ice water, too. … I mean, everybody has an idea and a bill, usually to spend more money. It’s like a Labor Day mattress sale around here.”
Kennedy also made somewhat of a fool of himself when he too took to the Senate Floor to recite each number of zeros in a trillion.
As the sayings go, “elections have consequences” and “pay back’s a bitch”. The 2020 elections did have major consequences and the pay back is almost to the moon.
With any luck, the Democratic controlled House and Senate will proceed to repeal the 2017 tax cuts and throw in a $15 dollar minimum wage for good measure.
Now that would be real payback long overdue.