Sharp elbows in Congress as GOP starts committee work on tax reform plan

Lawmakers from both parties repeatedly sparred with each other on Monday in the first full day of work before a key U.S. House committee on a GOP tax reform package, as Republicans made some small changes to the bill, trying to smooth over any internal party divisions on the tax details, which still might cause trouble for the Republican plan in both the full House and Senate.

"Not only do we deliver tax relief for every American family, especially those who feel like they’ve been left behind," said Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), as GOP lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee delivered a strong message in favor of the Republican tax reform bill.

"It's going to help the economy create jobs," said Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD). "Paychecks will be larger in January."

Democrats saw it differently.

"This bill is a shame and a disgrace," said Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). "You are giving trillions of dollars in tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires. That is not right."

Throughout the first day of the committee's 'markup,' lawmakers in both parties repeatedly growled at each other over the details of the GOP tax plan, and that only stepped up a few notches when Republicans suddenly unveiled a 33 page amendment to their bill, with little in the way of explanation or advance notice.

Fuming and frustrated about the latest GOP changes to the tax bill, one Democrat read out loud some of the highly technical legislative text.

"None of us has a goddang clue just what I read here," said Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI).

"When you go down this list, you can see lobbyists at work," said Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI) of the new GOP tax bill changes.

The latest language included provisions on:

+ Reducing improper payments in the Earned Income Tax Credit

+ Allowing employer-provided dependent-care assistance to continue to be exluded from personal income

+ Language allowing self-created music to be considered capital assets

+ Taxes carried interest as ordinary income when held for less than 3 years.

+ New language on stock options that let people defer taxes on income

+ Clarifies a new excise tax on private college and university endowments.

The hearing had some expected moments of levity and sharp exchanges, reflecting the strongly held political sentiments of both parties.

At one point, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) was forced to wrap up his verbal diatribe against the GOP plan; he responded with one more rhetorical swing at his GOP critics.

"I'm not done with my sentence," Pascrell said in a loud voice as GOP lawmakers said the New Jersey Democrat had run over his debate time. "Don't interrupt me."

"We always try to provide you with extra time to conclude," said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in a calm voice.

But Pascrell was having none of it.

"This is America, this ain't Moscow!" Pascrell said.

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