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In new letter, signed by the seven Senate Democrats named to conference committee, Senators demand at least three public meetings, the opportunity to offer amendments, & complete expert analysis on new bill’s economic impact before conference report is finalized

Neither the House Ways and Means Committee nor the Senate Finance Committee held any public hearings regarding the bills that were reported out or debated in their respective chambers – Senate Dems urge GOP to provide more transparency as House & Senate debate final bill 

Senate Dems: a bill that would have such an enormous impact on the economy deserves complete analysis, public debate, & an open process

(Washington, D.C.) –  In a new letter, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate health committee, and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, today joined Senate Democrats who will serve as conferees on the committee to negotiate the GOP’s tax bill to urge their fellow Republican conferees to conduct the conference in an open and transparent manner. The Senators said transparency has been missing from the legislative process thus far, as neither the House Ways and Means Committee nor the Senate Finance Committee have held any public hearings regarding the bills that were ultimately reported out and debated in their respective chambers. The Senators said a bill that would have such an enormous impact on the American economy deserves to see the light of day. The Senators therefore demanded the conference conduct at least three open public meetings, that all members on the committee be given a full opportunity to offer amendments and to secure roll call votes on all amendments, and that a final conference report, including analyses from tax experts at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), be approved and made public.

In addition to Senators Murray and Cantwell, the Democrats who penned this letter include Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Tom Carper (D-DE).

A copy of their letter appears below:

Dear Fellow Conferees,

We write to you regarding our upcoming negotiations and work on H.R. 1, the reconciliation vehicle for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  We request that the conference be conducted with a level of transparency and consideration commensurate with the enormous scope and implications of this bill, which has been missing from the legislative process thus far.  Specifically, there should be several public conference meetings held in the open, with meaningful opportunity for public input and with the benefit of a complete analysis by Congress's nonpartisan budget experts.

Foremost, it is critical that this process and all negotiations be done publicly, in full view of the American people.  Neither the Ways and Means Committee nor the Finance Committee held any public hearings regarding the bills that were ultimately reported out and debated in their respective chambers.  Debating these crucial topics out in the open - rather than behind closed doors - would allow the American people the ability to stay informed about changes to the tax code that will have a significant impact on many facets of their lives.  Specifically, we request that the conference conduct at least three open public meetings, and that all members of the conference be given a full opportunity at such meetings to offer amendments and to secure roll call votes on all amendments, as well as on final approval of the conference report.  It would be outrageous if legislation of this magnitude is again put together in secret, without the public's knowledge or input. 

We also believe that before the conference report is finalized, conferees and the public should have a complete analysis of the proposed language from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT).  Such an analysis should include a standard score, so we understand the costs of its provisions and their impact on the budget deficit.  It also should evaluate the legislation's macroeconomic effects, so we know whether there is any truth to claims that the legislation "pays for itself."  Additionally, since the Congressional Budget Office already estimated that this legislation would result in tens of millions of patients losing health care coverage and substantial premium increases, the conference should also wait for an analysis of its impact on the health care system.  Finally, the analysis should include a complete description of the bill's distributional effects, including an analysis that illustrates what percentage of taxpayers will see a tax increase or tax decrease and the magnitude of the change.   It is essential that members have a full and non-partisan understanding of the legislation being presented, before any member is compelled to vote on a conference report.

Last week, the Senate passed a bill rife with hand-written edits in the margins in the middle of the night.  Predictably, this rush to passage produced mistakes amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars that conferees will now have to fix and may have led to new loopholes ripe for exploitation.  Americans cannot risk their financial futures and our economy to such haphazard and slapdash legislating.

We know that many of us disagree about the merits of policies that would lead to tax increases on the middle class, tax breaks for large corporations and the very wealthy, and the despoiling of a pristine wilderness refuge.  But we should all agree that changes of this scale should be done the right way, with a full opportunity for open, public dialogue, and complete information from non-partisan analysts about the bill's effects.

Thank you for your consideration of our requests.

Sincerely,

 

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)

U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE)