Raskin and Pelosi rally supporters in Bethesda against tax plan
The devil of the GOP tax plan being promoted by President Trump and Congressional Republicans is in the details, Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-8th District) said on Saturday while speaking with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) during a boisterous rally against the GOP plan, which he called “an assault on the middle class.”
Speaking before more than 300 people in Bethesda Saturday morning, Raskin was adamant about the challenges he said the Democrats face in stopping the tax plan.
“We’ve gotta get into the weeds because that’s where the snakes are,” Raskin said. He also told his constituents that the 426-page bill is “of, by, and for the billionaires,” compared with Abraham Lincoln – who Raskin called “the last great Republican President” – and his idea of government “of, by, and for the people.”
Because Republicans are pushing to fast-track the tax bill, which can be passed through the Senate with only 50 votes (instead of the normal 60) by abusing a parliamentary trick known as budget reconciliation, opposition needs to mobilize quickly, he said.
Raskin said that word needs to get out about the specifics of the bill and the reasons it will benefit GOP special interests while harming the middle class.
“We need to tell the people,” he said.
Specific examples of the bill favoring Republican interests at the expense of the middle class, Raskin noted, are how the bill would encourage the export of American jobs (despite GOP claims to the contrary) by canceling taxation of profits from foreign factories and other operations by American companies abroad, or how it would repeal the prohibition on political activity by tax-exempt religious institutions known as the “Johnson Amendment,” named after former President Lyndon Johnson (D), who authored the legislation while he was Senate Majority Leader.
Lifting prohibitions on political activity for churches has long been a goal of Republicans, who enjoy strong support from religious conservatives who claim it is an infringement on their First Amendment rights.
Earlier this year President Trump – who promised to sign legislation repealing the Johnson Amendment during his 2016 campaign – signed an Executive Order directing the Justice Department to refrain from enforcement of the Johnson Amendment.
Raskin also argued that GOP proposal to repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax would be a multimillion-dollar benefit to President Trump himself and to the billionaire and multimillionaire members of his Cabinet, as portions of his 1995 tax return which were leaked to reporters showed that the majority of taxes Trump that year – $30 million out of total payments of $35 million – were due to the AMT.
Pelosi – who grew up in Baltimore, where her father and brother both served as Mayor – contrasted Republican proposals to eliminate the deduction teachers can take for the costs of teaching materials they purchase with their own funds, with major new breaks, such as repealing the AMT and slashing corporate tax rates, worth multi-millions for the corporations and personal taxes of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
“Shame on them, how petty,” Pelosi said. “They give with one hand, and take away with the other. [Their plan] is an insult to the intelligence” of the voters.
The GOP tax bill is a prime example of the “corruption, incompetence, and cronyism” of the Trump Cabinet and administration, Pelosi contended.
Raskin contrasted the haste with which House Republicans are moving their tax bill — it was introduced Nov. 2 and will be voted on within a week or two, probably without a single hearing — with the process in 1986, the last time the federal tax system was overhauled. The 1986 law had more than 400 House and Senate hearings over nearly three years, he noted, and passed a Democratic House and Republican Senate with strong bipartisan majorities.
“I’ve asked some of my Republican colleagues in the House,” said Raskin, “why don’t we have a proper process [with input from affected people]? Why don’t we try a little democracy?”
But Raskin said he hasn’t gotten any answers from his Republican colleagues, who are attempting to rush the bill through after drafting it in secrecy.
The Rockville rally – which drew a crowd of roughly 350 people – served as a staging point for volunteers headed to canvass on behalf of Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam (D), the Democratic candidate in Virginia’s hotly-contested gubernatorial election, and was also attended by Democratic activist groups and local candidates, including county executive candidate George Leventhal.
Leventhal, who greeted voters and handed out fliers, told the Sentinel that rally attendees “are people who are tuned in [to county elections].”
“They’re probably voting in [the] June [2018 Democratic primary], and I want them to get to know me,” he said.
Both Pelosi and Raskin thanked the 8th District residents who planned to spend the day volunteering in Virginia.
A Democratic victory in Virginia would send an important message nationally about the strength of opposition to President Trump’s initiatives, they said, and would buttress efforts to defeat the Republican tax bill.
“We’re not going to let [the bill’s many adverse impacts] happen,” they said.