As Republicans celebrated passage of their tax plan at the White House yesterday, the first thing Donald Trump said at the event was that lawmakers "worked so long" and "so hard" on the legislation.
The phrase kept coming up. The president said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has been "working very hard." He said House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) also "worked so hard."
But there's a difference between working hard and working fast. To jam through their regressive and unpopular tax plan, GOP policymakers did the latter, but not the former.
It may seem like the tax debate lasted a while, but the original House plan was introduced on Nov. 2 -- seven weeks ago today. Those who don't follow Congress closely may not appreciate how ridiculously fast that is for such a major undertaking. In 1986, federal policymakers worked on a sweeping tax reform package for two years before it was approved, not two months.
Some on the right may be tempted to see this as a good thing -- as if today's Republicans should be praised for the efficiency and speed in which they completed their work. But that's bonkers. I'm reminded of a recent Washington Post report, which was published 11 days ago.
Republicans are moving their tax plan toward final passage at stunning speed, blowing past Democrats before they've had time to fully mobilize against it but leaving the measure vulnerable to the types of expensive problems popping up in their massive and complex plan.Questionable special-interest provisions have been stuffed in along the way, out of public view and in some cases literally in the dead of night. Drafting errors by exhausted staff are cropping up and need fixes.... Veterans of congressional tax overhauls, particularly the seminal revamp under President Ronald Reagan in 1986, have been stunned and in some cases outraged at how swiftly Republicans are moving on legislation that touches every corner of the economy and all Americans.
To use Trump's phrasing, "working very hard" would have entailed careful deliberations, bipartisan outreach, substantive legislative hearings, outreach to stakeholders, responses to criticisms and independent analyses, and a transparent public campaign that informed the public about the policies being imposed on all Americans, answering our questions and addressing our fears.
Except, in this case, Republicans didn't do any of those things.
They wrote a bad bill in a bad way, circumventing every norm, standard, and tradition that exists. They took an ideologically driven idea detached from reality -- the wealthy and big corporations need vastly more money -- and clumsily threw together legislation behind closed doors, only to be rushed through both chambers.
At the White House yesterday, Paul Ryan said he wanted to thank "the American people for putting their trust in us." In reality, that never happened -- the more the public urged Republicans to slow down, the more they sped up.
Republicans want us to believe they worked hard on this legislation. The country would be vastly better off if that were true.