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EDITORIAL: GOP tax bill done, questions begin

York Dispatch

With passage of the biggest tax rewrite in some 30 years, congressional Republicans can finally brag they didn’t go 0 for 2017.

Or can they?

As the nation enters an election year that will see the entire House and one-third of the Senate go before voters, Republican incumbents will have to answer for a tax package that was publicly unpopular, fiscally one-sided, blatantly opaque and fiercely partisan.

More:It's a done deal: Congress wraps up massive tax package

And yet, this is the measure they plan on heralding as their marque piece of legislation for 2017.

It’s true there’s not much else to show following a year in which the GOP controled the White House and both houses of Congress. 

Multiple efforts to ram through repeal of the Affordable Care Act dissolved amid internal squabbles. Much-heralded plans for major infrastructure legislation never materialized. And other major issues such as immigration and gun control have been ignored — despite ham-handed White House travel bans on the former front and egregious mass shootings on the latter.

The only other noteworthy maneuver this year was shepherding Neil Gorsuch onto the Supreme Court bench, and that was only possible because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell A) blocked President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee for almost a year, B) went back on his word to “let the American people decide” via the presidential election (voters chose the Democrat by nearly 3 million votes) and C) exercised the so-called nuclear option by sweeping aside the filibuster requiring 60 votes to bring the Gorsuch nomination to the Senate floor.

So the tax bill became the second bend-the-rules measure to be muscled through Congress.

And Republicans, already shackled by the unpopularity of their flag-bearer in the Oval Office, will have to answer for it. That includes Pennsylvania’s regional GOP contingent: Scott Perry of Harrisburg, Lou Baletta of Hazelton, Charlie Dent of Allentown and Lloyd Smucker of West Lampeter Township.

More:Risk for middle class: That GOP tax cuts could fade away

Here are a few questions Pennsylvania voters should not forget to ask next year:

  • Why was it necessary for this bill to be crafted entirely in private?
  • Are you comfortable with the fact that no public hearings were held on this bill? Will you be similarly acquiescent to passing legislation absent public hearings going forward?
  • Did you read the entire bill before voting on it?
  • Throughout the entire Obama administration, your party demanded that legislation be “revenue neutral” — i.e., that all new spending be offset by equivalent budget cuts. What made this bill, which will add $1.5 trillion to $2.2 trillion to the federal deficit, different?
  • One of the arguments for this legislation was that the tax code needed to be simplified. In what ways has that goal been achieved?
  • With the stock market at record highs, what made a significant corporate tax cut a priority?
  • With the stock market at record highs, unemployment at 17-year lows and only 2 percent of the public citing high taxes as the nation’s most serious issue, what made the tax bill the one piece of must-pass legislation for 2017?
  • Why were upper-income and corporate tax cuts, which this legislation establishes in perpetuity, deemed more important than middle- and working-class tax cuts, which expire in a few years?
  • How many of your constituents will be affected by this legislation’s provision eliminating the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to purchase health insurance? What steps have you taken to mitigate those effects?
  • What is the median family income in your district and how much will that family benefit from this plan five and 10 years from now? How much will the average millionaire in your district benefit?
  • How much will you, personally, and your immediate family members benefit from this legislation?

These are just for starters. More questions will undoubtedly arise as the specifics of this unfair, unnecessary and indefensible tax measure become known in the coming months.

In short, it will be interesting to see whether this tax bill will be something re-election-seeking Republicans run on next year — or run from.