Democrats: McConnell Must ‘Hit the Pause Button’ on Tax Vote


WASHINGTON — Buoyed by their upset victory in Tuesday night’s Alabama Senate race, Senate Democrats on Wednesday demanded that Republicans delay the final vote on a massive tax overhaul until Doug Jones, the party’s new senator-elect, can be sworn in.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, called on his Republican counterpart, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, to “hit the pause button” on the tax vote. It is highly unlikely that Mr. McConnell will do so.

“It would be wrong for Senate Republicans to jam through this tax bill without giving the newly elected senator from Alabama the opportunity to cast his vote,” Mr. Schumer said.

Mr. Schumer cited precedent: the 2010 election of Scott Brown, a Massachusetts Republican, to the seat that had been held for decades by Senator Edward M. Kennedy. The Senate was weighing President Barack Obama’s health care bill at the time, and Democrats delayed the final vote — even though Mr. Brown’s election cost them their 60-vote filibuster-proof majority.

But aides to Mr. McConnell pushed back, saying that Democrats delayed the vote on health care only because they didn’t have enough votes to pass the bill.

Ultimately, Democrats solved their conundrum by skipping negotiations on a final health bill between the House and Senate and forcing the House to accept the Senate’s version of the Affordable Care Act, which had cleared the chamber before Mr. Brown’s election. A separate measure to clean up lingering issues with the health law was later adopted using a parliamentary procedure that ensured the legislation could pass the Senate with a simple majority.

Regardless of why Democrats waited for Mr. Brown before completing the health bill, it is not likely that Mr. McConnell would follow such pleasantries.

Democrats cited another precedent that proved that point: Mr. McConnell’s decision last year to block even a hearing for Mr. Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.

At the time, Mr. McConnell said the vote should be delayed until after the presidential election, saying the Senate should “let the American people decide” the future of the court.

“It seems to me that rather than continuing to force through this rough-hewed, one-sided tax bill, it would make more sense to take a step back and to reconsider a bipartisan path and to allow newly-elected, Senator-elect Jones to be a part of that debate,’’ said Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware.

But if Mr. McConnell withstood pressure to even consider Mr. Garland for 10 months, he is unlikely to buckle to pressure in the coming days.

Republicans plan to vote on the final tax measure next week and are determined to send the bill to President Trump by Christmas.

Mr. Jones cannot be seated in the Senate until officials in Alabama certify that he has won, and the Alabama secretary of state, John Merrill, said the vote would be certified on December 26 at the earliest — and possibly as late as January 3.



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