WASHINGTON — The Senate finance committee advanced Republicans’ plans to overhaul the tax system on Thursday night, but not without a fiery argument between senators just minutes before the vote.
While on the final Democratic amendment, Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, accused Republicans of over the past 40 years routinely trying to only cut taxes for the rich.
“I just think, it would be nice, just tonight, before we go home, to just acknowledge, well, this tax cut really is not for the middle class, it’s for the rich,” Brown said as part of his lengthy comments that included reference to how previous tax cuts did not lead to sufficiently higher wages.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican and chairman of the committee, angrily responded in personal terms.
“I come from the poor people, and I’ve been here working my whole stinkin’ career for people who don’t have a chance,” he said as the room fell silent. “And I really resent anybody saying I’m just doing it for the rich. Give me a break.”
Hatch is the most senior Republican in the Senate and nearing the end of his seventh term.
Brown and Hatch then started arguing loudly over each other, while Grassley, who sat by Hatch’s side, called for regular order. Hatch started banging the gavel rapidly.
“Listen, I’ve honored you by allowing you to spout off here. What you said was not right,” Hatch said to Brown, as his voice shook with anger. “I come from the lower middle class originally. We didn’t have anything. So don’t spew that stuff on me.”
“I like you personally very much,” Hatch continued, but said he was tired of the “bullcrap” that Democrats “throw out” in the markup.
“To do it at the end of this,” he said. “It really gets me worked up.”
Hatch was so worked up that he needed assistance in remembering how to proceed to the next amendment.
The committee approved the $1.5 trillion Republican tax overhaul proposal shortly thereafter following four days of markup. The vote was 14-12, along party lines.