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House and Senate Republicans are expected today to roll out their $1.5 trillion tax plan, which they say will stimulate the economy and create jobs.
But Democrats, who say the bill is a giveaway to corporations and the wealthiest Americans, want the vote to be delayed until Doug Jones, who was recently elected to the Senate in Alabama, is officially seated.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren is leading the charge and told WBUR Thursday that with Republicans on the verge of passing a sweeping overhaul of the federal tax system, it's only fair that Alabama's newest senator gets a chance to vote.
"You know, when we're in the middle of a big policy debate like this one on taxes that is going to touch every person in America, I kind of think all the senators here ought to be the ones who are already elected," she said.
She pointed to 2010, when Republican Scott Brown won a special Senate election here in Massachusetts to fill the seat of the late Ted Kennedy. Back then, Democrats, who controlled Congress and the White House, were trying to pass the Affordable Care Act. But when Brown won, Democratic leaders decided not to rush a vote.
And Republicans then made the same argument.
"The people of Massachusetts had an opportunity to speak yesterday, and they spoke rather loudly," said Mitch McConnell back in 2010, when he was Senate minority leader, talking about Scott Brown's victory and the pending vote on the Affordable Care Act.
"One concern I know a number of you had about the outcome of this election was whether the new senator would be seated soon. I'm convinced now that no gamesmanship will be played by the other side with regard to future votes in the Senate," said McConnell in 2010.
But now, Republicans seem OK with that kind of "gamesmanship" — and plan to vote on the tax bill without Jones. Ron Kaufman, a Republican Party Committee member from Massachusetts, says there's good reason for that.
"First and foremost, he can't be sworn in today if he wanted to be, because they haven't certified the election, and that won't be done until something like the 27th of December," he said.
The Alabama Secretary of State says it will take until after Christmas, maybe until after New Years to certify this week's election. And Republicans say given how long they've worked on the tax bill, they want to get it done.
Warren does not buy this argument.
"Come on! Give me a break — how long they've been working on this bill?" she said.
She said this "gamesmanship" is designed to rush a tax bill to the president's desk before it can be scrutinized too closely.
But Jeff Diehl, the Republican state Rep who is hoping to challenge Warren next year has a different view.
"Sounds to me more like Elizabeth Warren is trying to obstruct at all costs Congress's plan to provide more jobs and increased wages for the middle class, so, it seems like it's more politics as usual from the senator's office," he said.
The politics on both sides are easy to understand. Democrats will continue to push for a delay, not only to give time for Doug Jones to be seated in the Senate, but also to give them more time to raise objections about the Republican tax plan. Senate Republicans understand that waiting for Jones would only reduce their razor thin majority — along with their chances of passing an already unpopular tax bill.
This segment aired on December 15, 2017.
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