GOP chairman shoots down Democrat effort to delay tax work until Jones is seated

Democrats on Wednesday sought to postpone the House-Senate tax reform conference until after Sen.-elect Doug Jones (D-Ala.) is seated, but their effort was shot down.

Toward the start of the conference committee's open meeting on Wednesday, Rep. Richard NealRichard Edmund NealKey House committee chairman to meet with Mnuchin on infrastructure next week Coalition of conservative groups to air ads against bipartisan proposal to end 'surprise' medical bills House revives agenda after impeachment storm MORE (D-Mass.) offered a motion to delay conference work until after Jones takes office. 

The conference is reconciling the House and Senate versions of Republican-pushed tax-reform legislation.

“It’s imperative that we respect the will of the people of Alabama," said Neal, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. He noted that Democrats stopped work on ObamaCare while they waited for Scott Brown (R-Mass.) to be seated after winning a special election for a Senate seat in 2010.

But Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyConservative groups aim to sink bipartisan fix to 'surprise' medical bills Trump economic aide says new tax proposal could be unveiled this summer Hoyer: Democratic chairmen trying to bridge divide on surprise medical bills MORE (R-Texas) on Wednesday said Neal's motion was "not available."

ADVERTISEMENT

Neal and other Democrats, such as his fellow Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenHarris weighing Biden endorsement: report Biden, Sanders contend for top place in new national poll Biden leads Democratic primary field nationally: poll MORE, spent Wednesday pushing for work on tax legislation to stop until Jones takes office.

Jones, a former federal prosecutor, on Tuesday defeated Republican candidate Roy Moore to become the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama in decades. Once Jones is seated, Republicans' majority in the Senate will shrink to 51-49.

Jones is not expected to be seated until after the election results are certified later this month or in early January. But Republicans are pushing to send tax legislation to President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Anita Hill to Iowa crowd: 'Statute of limitations' for Biden apology is 'up' Sen. Van Hollen releases documents from GAO investigation MORE's desk next week. News broke Wednesday that GOP lawmakers reached an agreement in principle on the final tax bill on Wednesday.

News of the deal broke before the public conference committee meeting, leading Democrats to argue that the meeting was just for show.

“What’s happening today is a sham,” said Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Bezos phone breach raises fears over Saudi hacking | Amazon seeks to halt Microsoft's work on 'war cloud' | Lawmakers unveil surveillance reform bill Bezos phone breach escalates fears over Saudi hacking Top intel office fails to meet deadline to give Khashoggi report to Congress: report MORE (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.

“This is indeed a mockery,” said Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.). 

Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowSenate fails to get deal to speed up fight over impeachment rules The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial John Lewis to miss Martin Luther King Jr. Day event MORE (D-Mich.) asked when Democrats would be able to look at the agreement.

Brady said that he expects the conference report to be filed by the end of the week, and that lawmakers and the public would be able to examine it once it's finalized.