Editorials

Editorial

Senator Susan Collins must pick a side

With reporters looking for updates, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and other senators rush to the chamber to vote on amendments as the Republican leadership works to craft their sweeping tax bill, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. It would mark the first time in 31 years that Congress has overhauled the tax code, making it the biggest legislative achievement of President Donald Trump's first year in office. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite
Senator Susan Collins, followed by reporters, makes her way to the Senate chamber to vote on amendments as the Republican leadership works to craft their sweeping tax bill on Nov. 30.

Time for Senator Susan Collins to pick a side.

Her GOP colleagues want the Maine lawmaker to support the party’s tax bill, a mishmash of giveaways to the wealthy, under-the-radar policy changes that would harm the environment and enrich corporations, and new burdens on the middle class. It’s headed to a vote, perhaps on Friday. To get Collins’s support, the party leadership has floated some fig-leaf changes, but they amount to modest trimming around the edges — the sort of thing senators find convincing only when they desperately want an excuse to be convinced.

On the other side are credible economists who’ve panned the plan; ordinary taxpayers who’d suffer; and state governments that would reel from the fiscal aftershocks from the repeal of the state and local tax
deduction.

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This shouldn’t be a hard choice. The Republican plan would provide only small and temporary benefits for the middle class; it would blow up the federal deficit; and it would destabilize the health insurance market. The way that GOP leaders have rushed major changes through the Senate makes a mockery of serious legislating. The whole package should be rejected.

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So far, Collins has been coy, leaving open the possibility that she might support the bill. But she’s also asked for changes that seem highly unlikely, like leaving the tax rate on the highest-income taxpayers unchanged.

Want some more reasons to oppose the bill? Under the guise of a tax bill, it also opens up the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and gets rid of the individual health insurance mandate, which would lead to millions losing health insurance. It could also trigger rules that would slice Medicare.

All that sacrifice — and for what? At a time when the economy is growing and unemployment is low, the need for economic stimulus from a tax cut is nonexistent. The bill’s benefits would flow overwhelmingly to wealthy Americans who are already doing just fine.

Republicans have come under great pressure to show they can get anything done, after their misguided effort to repeal Obamacare sputtered earlier this year. Their donors want a return on their investment, in the form of lower taxes. And the pressure has already gotten the better of some Republicans who should know better, like Arizona senator John McCain, who said Thursday he’d vote for a plan that he acknowledged was “far from perfect.”

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The whole charade looks like an effort to jam through destructive policy before the public wises up to the full extent of the damage. Collins shouldn’t be part of this travesty.