Senate Republicans Don't Notice or Don't Care What Baker Thinks of Their Tax Bill

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Ten days ago, late on the afternoon of November 20, I printed out a State House News Service article headlined, “Mass. Middle Class May Take ‘Biggest Hit’ Under Federal Tax Reform, Baker Says.” 

It concerned an appearance earlier that day by Governor Charlie Baker on WGBH’s “Boston Public Radio” show, which is hosted by Jim Braude and Margery Eagan and airs Monday through Friday, 12:00 to 2:00 P.M.  Once a month, there’s an “Ask the Governor” segment, with Baker speaking and answering questions the entire two hours.
The article rested atop a pile on my desk until this morning, when I picked it up, read it again, and shook my head, marveling anew at how strange this time of the Trump ascendancy in U.S. politics is.

Here we have a popular Republican governor, Charlie Baker, telling the world that his feelings on a major component of Republican tax reform legislation are the same as those of Elizabeth Warren, a liberal Democrat member of the U.S. Senate loathed by multitudes within the GOP.
And here we have a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate that does not give a fig that GOP moderates like Baker are worried sick about how that legislation will affect their states and are rushing head-over-heals to pass a tax reform bill -- possibly as soon as today or tomorrow. 

“If you really want to do something for the middle class, this is not it, because the middle class – in Massachusetts – will probably take the biggest hit,” Baker told Braude and Eagan on November 20.  “This is just a big shift, as you point out Jim, to the haves, at the expense in many cases of working people and the have-nots.  And I don’t support that.”
Baker also said:

“There are all kinds of things in this bill that will just make life for middle-class families in Massachusetts dramatically more expensive. And one of the things that Senator Warren said about this that I thought was spot on was she said, before we start taking things away from middle class families to support tax cuts for big corporations, we should be talking about what we’re going to do to make life easier for middle class families first.  And I agree completely with her on that point.”

The national press is reporting today that several Republican senators -- including Susan Collins of Maine -- who were on the fence about tax reform, are coming around after lunching with Trump the other day and receiving verbal assurances from the president that their concerns would be addressed in various ways.
Collins has not yet firmly committed herself to the bill, the New York Times said, “but is more optimistic after the lunch.”  The Times quoted her as saying, “I believe that a lot of my concerns, it appears, are going to be addressed and that I’m going to be getting the opportunity to offer amendments on the Senate floor.”

In his November 20 interview with Braude and Eagan, Governor Baker happened to mention that he communicates regularly with Senator Collins in Washington.  Said Baker, “I talk to Susan Collins quite a bit about a lot of stuff that’s going on down there, A) because she represents New England, and B) because she’s somebody I’ve known for a long time and I can have a conversation with.”
I have this wild hope. Senator Collins is on the Senate floor. In a few minutes, she’s going to have to cast her final vote on tax reform.  Standing by her desk, she closes her eyes, puts her fingers to her chin and silently asks, “Who am I going to believe, Charlie Baker or Donald Trump?”

FOOTNOTE: In a statement late this morning to the State House News, House Speaker Robert DeLeo expressed "deep concern" about the GOP tax plan.  "I thank our congressional delegation for its advocacy against this ill-conceived legislation, which is built on specious economic arguments.  It is abundantly clear that the plan would be detrimental to hardworking residents of many backgrounds and income levels.  Additionally, it would negatively impact the Commonwealth's fiscal health, which would have sweeping ramifications on our ability to provide both essential services and programs that have given Massachusetts a competitive edge."  DeLeo said he was "particularly concerned" about the state's colleges, universities and research institutions.  "In addition to the short-term economic losses for Massachusetts, these cuts would stymie the nation's preeminent role in innovation and discovery.  That's not a loss we can afford, financially or for the morale of this country." 



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