A small group of demonstrators gathered outside Sen. Bob Corker’s Jonesborough office Monday, urging him to vote against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Opponents of the Republican tax bill say the 440-page legislation will cut the tax rates of the wealthiest Americans and eventually leave working and middle-class Americans footing the bill after corporate tax rates are reduced from 35 percent to 20 percent.
Democrats and health care advocates across the nation also oppose the bill on the grounds that it would also include a provision abolishing the individual mandate penalty, a key component of the Affordable Care Act.
As of Monday, Corker remained undecided on the proposed legislation, though some Senate Republicans are looking to speed up the process with a possible floor vote this week.
“Senator Corker spent the entire Thanksgiving break on the phone with his Senate colleagues and with the administration working on a responsible path forward. While more work remains, all parties are hopeful that the final bill will be good for our country,” Corker’s spokesperson Micah Johnson said an an emailed statement.
Earlier this month, Corker did, however, hint that he hoped Congress would put forth a bill similar to the tax cuts under former President Ronald Reagan. Corker said he appreciated the work that the Senate tax-writing committee has been doing to put forth the current bill.
“Throughout my time in public service, I have been a strong advocate for pro-growth tax reform and, like my colleagues, am excited about the possibility of producing the biggest tax rewrite since 1986,” Corker wrote in an emailed statement to the Johnson City Press.
With Corker not expressing explicit support or opposition to this bill specifically, Susan Whitlow, an organizer from the Sullivan County Democratic Party, said protesters hoped to persuade the senator to oppose the legislation.
She said the bill many are calling “tax reform” would be more accurately referred to as a tax cut for the wealthy. Whitlow pointed out that the Congressional Budget Office estimated the tax bill could add $1.7 trillion to the national deficit.
“This tax bill is immoral, and our senator said that he won’t vote for any tax bill that raises the deficit by one penny. If he means that, he can’t vote for this because it’s going to raise it by a bunch,” she said. “Temporarily, it will cut taxes for the middle class. Permanently, it will only cut taxes for the extremely wealthy and for wealthy corporations. In five years, the middle class and lower class will be paying more in taxes.”
Gloria Oster, who joined the demonstrators, said she hopes Corker will yet again stand up to President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda. She said that though Corker has “shown some integrity in opposing Trump and calling him out on things,” she believes the Republican Party is pushing this bill just to get something passed in Congress.
“The problem is that it hasn’t been approached in a non-partisan way. It gives permanent tax cuts to billionaires and millionaires, raises taxes on the middle class and goes directly against what President Trump said as a campaign promise,” she said. “They’re so desperate to pass anything, they’re willing to pass something that’s bad.
“I think Corker’s shown some backbone, and I hope he continues to do that by opposing this bill.”
Whitlow said she hopes Corker will consider the class makeup of Tennesseans when voting on a bill that she said will ultimately benefit the wealthy.
“I think that if he is going to vote for his constituents, he needs to vote no. There are nine billionaires in Tennessee. The percentage of millionaires in Tennessee is 3.5 percent, so we’re talking about 96.5 percent of the people in Tennessee that will be harmed by this bill,” Whitlow said.
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