Politics

Less than 12 hours after the Republican-led Senate passed its version of tax overhaul legislation, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was back in his hometown addressing the press.

McConnell held a brief press conference at the Galt House in Louisville Saturday afternoon, during which he rebuffed criticism that the bill favors the wealthy.

“It’s almost impossible to do any kind of tax reform in which the people who pay almost all of the taxes don’t get some benefit out of it,” McConnell said. “But in the Senate bill most of the rather wealthy people I’ve run into don’t think they’re getting anything. We did not get rid of the estate tax, we took the top rate down I think less than 1 percent.

“I haven’t run into anybody during this whole tax discussion who’s very successful who thinks they’re benefiting from it.”

The Senate bill is projected to add $1.4 trillion to the deficit over 10 years. An estimate from the Joint Committee on Taxation found that about $400 billion of that will be offset by economic growth.

The bill passed narrowly — 51 to 49 — in the early hours of Saturday morning. Tennessee Republican Bob Corker was the only Republican to oppose it, joining all 48 Senate Democrats.

Reactions from Kentucky Democrats were scathing on Saturday morning. U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth — the sole Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation — called the bill a “scam.”

“Early this morning, Senate Republicans abdicated any claim they had to being the party of fiscal responsibility,” Yarmuth wrote in a statement. “There is nothing remotely responsible about forcing through a closed-door, hastily conceived bill to give tax cuts to the already wealthy and multi-national corporations. There is nothing American or responsible about increasing our deficit by a trillion dollars, jeopardizing the future of Medicare and Medicaid, or forcing working families to pay more for healthcare, homeownership, and higher education.”

Kentucky Democratic Party chair Ben Self used the bill to call for voters to abandon Republicans in 2018.

“This tax bill is a clear indicator of Republican priorities: big, multinational corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent,” Self wrote. “This bill adds over $1 trillion to the national debt, paid for off the backs of Kentucky’s working families who are already struggling for relief. In 2018, we will use our voice in the voting booth to tell Congressional representatives that enough is enough.”

On Saturday morning, McConnell rejected criticism from Democrats that the bill was rushed through and contained significant last-minute changes that Democrats were not aware of. Some Senators, like Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, tweeted pictures of the bill marked up with illegible handwriting.

“Sure there were changes as we moved along. But the core of the bill, everybody was familiar with,” McConnell said. “All the Democrats were familiar with it, all the Republicans were familiar with it. And so the swan song last night, in the middle of the night that somehow they hadn’t had a chance to read it was ridiculous, because there were relatively minor changes to a core bill that everyone had had out for two weeks, and that they had participated in hearings and markups on.”

McConnell said he believes reconciling the House and Senate versions of the bill will be relatively quick, and there’s a good chance it will be on President Trump’s desk before Christmas.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Assignment Editor.