Politics

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will be in Louisville on Friday to rally opposition to the Republican tax plan currently making its way through Congress.

It’s the second time this year the Vermont senator has waded into the Republican-controlled waters of the bluegrass as he tries to put pressure on the state’s two influential senators — Rand Paul and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Sanders said there’s no reason for Republicans to support the tax bill, which gives tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and corporations while temporarily reducing taxes for the middle class.

“I don’t understand why we give tax breaks to billionaires and large corporations and ask the middle class to pay more in taxes over a 10 year period,” Sanders said in an interview on Thursday. “Why in God’s name would we be giving massive tax breaks to the very wealthiest of families?”

Senate Republican leaders are trying to pass a version of the tax bill by the end of the week. If it passes, the legislation would have to be reconciled with a House version that was approved earlier this month.

The current version of the Senate bill would cut the top corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent, allow businesses to write off new equipment and machinery and temporarily lower taxes on individuals.

But it would also no longer allow individuals to deduct their state and local taxes from their federal tax payment.

All five of Kentucky’s Republican U.S. Representatives voted in favor of the plan that passed the House earlier this month.

A key difference between the House and Senate versions of the bill is that the Senate’s would remove a key component of the Affordable Care Act — individuals would no longer be required to have health insurance.

Sanders said that provision would lead to millions losing their health insurance because of more expensive monthly premiums.

“Premiums will go up by about 10 percent because you’re going to be taking younger and healthier people out of the pool. I think that is a bad idea,” said Sanders.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the bill in its original form would add $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over 10 years.

Sanders criticized Democrats in states like Kentucky for being unable to rally voters against Republican efforts to scale back the Affordable Care Act and overhaul the tax code.

“That’s why we need fundamental reforms in the Democratic Party,” Sanders said. “We need to open the doors of the Democratic Party to young people, to working people, to people who are prepared to get their hands dirty and stand up and fight for the working families of this country.”

Sanders will speak at the Galt House in Louisville at 7 p.m. on Friday.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.