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The Tax Bill: Bad Process, Bad Policy

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The recent debate over the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act shone a light on serious problems with our legislative process. Passed under a special fast-track budget reconciliation process, the bill openly broke with standard procedures, which were designed to force a deliberative, inclusive, and bipartisan process on critical fiscal policy matters. The voices of experts and affected communities were ignored; members of Congress held no hearings and conducted the vast majority of the negotiations behind closed doors, and then rushed bills to the floor before their constituents could fully understand what was in them. Nonpartisan congressional scorekeepers were equally ignored, as the rushed process also left no time to adequately consider the results of analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation and Congressional Budget Office. Worse yet, when the results of such analysis were politically problematic, they were disparaged by members. Members even openly discussed the importance of passing legislation that would please their donors, rather than benefit their constituents. Finally, the legislation itself was filled with gimmicks and tricks to game the scoring process and obscure its true effects. The result: a corrupt bill that was widely disliked.

This problem is bigger than just the tax bill—it revealed deeper, longstanding issues that plague Congress. Please join the Center for American Progress as we discuss the issues revealed by the passage of the tax bill, and ways to address the pernicious problems that are undermining the effectiveness, transparency, and fairness of our legislative process.