No Democrats on Capitol Hill voted for the tax overhaul package being touted by President Trump as a formula for supercharging the U.S. economy.
That includes Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, who derided the legislation Thursday as a boon for millionaires and “crumbs” for the middle class, all paid for by massive deficit borrowing.
Bennet also called for congressional action on the Children's Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP. And he'd like to see protections passed for young non-citizens brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Bennet spoke with CPR’s Mike Lamp. The highlights below are edited for clarity.
Bennet on what it would have taken to get a bipartisan bill:
"I think that we could have passed a bipartisan bill and tax reform easily. The components of that would have been lowering the corporate rate, which has been uncompetitive; dealing with the loopholes, which they didn't deal with at all. We could have increased the earned income tax or the child tax credit if that's what we thought we needed to do; and then we could have had an agreement on repatriating corporate profits that have been stuck overseas and applying some of that to infrastructure here in the United States. I think that would have got 75 or 80 votes in the Senate. Unfortunately the ideologues got a hold of this process and rammed through a partisan bill and now the American people are going to be asked to pay for the tax cuts that they've given the wealthiest people in the country, and that seems unjust to me."
On why he does not see an upside to the tax cut package:
"When you consider the fact that they are borrowing from America's children -- because they're financing it with deficit spending -- they haven't paid for it. They’re borrowing $37 billion from America to give a tax cut to the 572,000 people in this country who are fortunate enough to make more than $1 million a year. At the same time for people who are making $50,000 and less -- and there are 90 million of them, not 572,000, but 90 million -- those people are getting about $15 billion which works out to a little bit more than $7.50 a paycheck. So the way I look at this is that they've been kind enough to spread some crumbs around for middle America to make it appear like there's a middle-class tax cut, when the reality is they're borrowing money from the middle class to finance these massive tax cuts for the wealthiest people the country. I don't think that's satisfactory. In fact I would say this is the worst piece of legislation that I've seen in the nine years that I've been in this job."
On the fate of young non citizens brought to the U.S. illegally as children:
"It’s just critical that we deal with this problem that unfortunately President Trump created in September when he took away the protections that the ‘Dreamers’ had without any thought about what the replacement would be. So I've been working with Republican and Democratic colleagues to see if we can create a bipartisan solution that will relieve people in my state and in our country from the jeopardy that they might be deported to a country that they never had any experience in. I mean even the president himself said he didn't want to do any damage the Dreamers. He's already done a substantial amount of damage. I think that is why there is real bipartisan support to try to get this done."
On whether there’s any progress on that effort:
"There's progress being made but I would say this: Here we sit at the end of the year before people are leaving here to go home for the holidays. It would have benefited everybody if we had resolved this long ago. We should resolve it before we leave. In fact I still think we should resolve it before we leave. If we don't, we should figure out how to fix it early in January so that people can have some predictability in their lives."
On whether Congress will reauthorize the children’s health insurance program, known as CHIP:
“It certainly should be addressed early next year … It's been a wild success in Colorado and other places. It has broad bipartisan support and it's only being ground up into smithereens because of self-interested politics in Washington. It will be reauthorized in January. It should have been extended now and I know that it is caused disruption. This is another one of those things that happens when a bunch of politicians in Washington forget whom they represent. We've had, over the last nine years, 30 so-called continuing resolutions, which are temporary budgets where we don't resolve things like CHIP. It’s the kind of governance we would not accept from any school board in Colorado or from any city council and we shouldn't accept it from the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives."