Gardner 'hopeful' for bipartisan amendments on tax reform as Bennet slams bill

DENVER – U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner was a key vote in the Senate Budget Committee’s Tuesday passage of the Republican-led tax reform effort, which the full Senate could take up starting Wednesday.

Calling the committee vote an “important step” in the tax reform efforts, Gardner said the bill, which is still changing, “will increase wages, grow the economy, create jobs, and benefit hardworking Coloradans.”

The Republican from Colorado hasn’t committed to voting one way or the other on the bill, as he did with votes on repealing the Affordable Care Act earlier this year, but there were greater concerns over whether his fellow Republicans, Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, would support the measure’s passage out of committee.

The House of Representatives passed its version of tax reform earlier this month, with all of Colorado’s Republicans voting in favor of the measure, and all Democrats voting against it.

Now that it has cleared the initial committee hurdle in the Senate, the bill is set for a procedural vote Wednesday that will open up the debate and amendment process for 20 hours in accordance with reconciliation measures. A full vote on the bill would then likely come Friday.

“I look forward to the bill being debated on the Senate floor through an open amendment process, and I’m hopeful my colleagues from both sides of the aisle will work together,” Gardner said Tuesday in a written statement.

Several Republican senators remain on the fence on the bill, however, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will increase the national deficit by $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years, and which will cut taxes for more wealthy people while increasing them for many families making under $75,000 a year, according to various nonpartisan estimates.

The repeal of the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act, which requires people to have health care coverage, has drawn criticism from both sides, and there are some battles being fought to try and guarantee the restoration of CHIP funding, or the passage of the Alexander-Murray health care bill, in exchange for repealing the individual mandate.

New rifts are growing over a “trigger” written into the bill that could increase taxes if certain economic growth targets aren’t met as well, as fights over whether conservatives should pass deficit increases and possible tax increases continued beyond the bill’s committee passage Tuesday. But the details of the “trigger” have not been released.

Some Republicans, including Gardner, were pointing to analysis from the White House’s Council for Economic Advisors, which is led by a former head of a conservative economic thinktank, that said reducing the corporate tax rate will increase average wages in Colorado by nearly $4,400.

Susan Kochevar, who owns the 88 Drive-In Theatre in Commerce City, told Denver7 Tuesday she supports the effort.

“It will help me expand [and] hire new employees, which I really want to do,” she said. “I might be able to pay people—some full-time—and maybe offer some health benefits.”

She says she believes that the trickle-down effect that some say could come from cutting corporate and businesses taxes will indeed happen under the Republican efforts.

All the profits are passed through to the individual personally, and you were taxed on that, so reducing those tax rates helps us tremendously,” Kochevar said.

Other Coloradans aren’t as convinced, however. Dozens of people rallied against the Republican tax reform effort at Gardner’s office in Denver Tuesday to protest the plan, a week after Gardner was booed over the plan at a Pueblo town hall last week.

The Denver Post Editorial Board last week rescinded of its endorsement of the GOP plan, saying it had been misled, and called the plan "an accounting lie."

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said again Tuesday, as he has in recent weeks, that the bill is a handout for the wealthy.

“If Republicans put a stop to this fundamentally flawed approach, we can work in a bipartisan way to accomplish responsible tax reform that actually grows middle-class paychecks, creates jobs, and doesn’t leave behind a mountain of debt for our kids to pay,” he said.

Later Tuesday, he held a town hall on Facebook in which he answered questions about the tax bill and effects on Medicaid, education and Colorado's economy, among others. Click here for the video, or watch in the player embedded below.

Despite the questions over numbers and some partisan smokescreens, the impending Dec. 8 government shutdown is also complicating the tax reform efforts, as those in the Capitol try to find ways to fund the government without giving up too much of their personal concerns, like immigration and health care.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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