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Doing nothing on tax bill could prove good politics for Democrats

Emma Dumain, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Democrats are signaling that their strategy on the Republican tax overhaul plan is right out of the GOP's health care playbook: Criticize relentlessly and do little to help make it better.

"Want to pass this tax bill? Want to hurt the suburbs? Make our day," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, evoking tough-talking movie star Clint Eastwood.

Of course, Democrats are not explicitly saying they're giving up working with Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress.

"You have to tell us where the secret room is first," said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. "They've written the bill in secret with no input from Democrats. We've made it clear a million different ways we want to work with them on it, but they don't seem to have any interest."

Democrats witnessed a week of debate this week on the House GOP plan in the Ways and Means Committee, where countless Democratic amendments and ideas were consistently rejected. The committee Thursday sent the bill to the House floor, where it's due for a vote next week, on a party-line vote.

Democrats expect a similar pattern to unfold in the Senate Finance Committee next week when that panel writes its version of the tax bill.

Republicans are bound to criticize Democrats for not appearing eager to help improve legislation the GOP negotiated behind closed doors. The current Democratic posture, however, is similar to the strategy Republicans employed in 2009 and 2010, as the Democrat-controlled Congress advanced the Affordable Care Act without GOP input.

Republicans' ultimate decision to offer little or no constructive input, and instead yell from the sidelines, helped them retake the House in 2010. Every Republican voted "no" on final passage on Obamacare legislation that to this day remains disliked by the base.

Sen. Gary Peters, a moderate Michigan Democrat who isn't up for re-election until 2020,was talking like those Republicans of the past on Thursday.

"If this is a bad bill and I vote against it, I think you get rewarded for that," he said of the tax legislation

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