The first fireworks in the tax reform hearing came after Republicans brought props to the table

  • Republicans are moving swiftly to finalise and vote on their bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
  • Democrats are frustrated with the lack of regular order and bipartisanship.

WASHINGTON — Tempers quickly flared during the House markup on tax reform Monday afternoon when a Republican congressman brought a large stack of regulations to the table in an effort to make a point about the complexity of the US tax code.

During the first of four crucial days in the tax reform effort, New York Rep. Tom Reed began his allotted time to question Joint Committee on Taxation chief of staff Thomas Barthold by displaying seven books of regulations on the table, stacked a few feet high. Following Reed’s questioning, Connecticut Rep. John Larson, a Democrat, unloaded on the Republicans for what he deemed political theatre.

“Since this is theatre — and that’s all this is today is theatre — this is as we started out the conversation at the oldest continuous committee in the United States Congress,” Larson said. “And without a hearing, you’re going to proceed with the great charade.”

Larson, visibly angry, began shouting at the GOP lawmakers and chided them for the lack of regular order and public hearings that were common during the last attempt to reform the tax code more than 30 years ago.

“This is outrageous. You are all good, honorable people,” he said. “It is hard to believe that we find ourselves in this situation. You just went through this with the healthcare act. The American public just witnessed again what happens when you jammed something down.”

Larson then apologised to Barthold, calling him “merely a showpiece” and “camouflage” for Republicans trying to garner a political victory.

“These are honorable people,” Larson said. “This is not an honorable time or day for this committee or for democracy in America. Not a single hearing or a single expert witness.”

After Larson’s time expired, Illinois Republican Peter Roskam, who chairs the subcommittee on tax policy, scolded Democrats for their demands of regular order.

“I don’t find it necessarily more persuasive when people speak louder but let’s get right to some of these things,” said Roskam, noting the Democrats’ swift passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. “This sanctimonious, self-righteous, retroactive nostalgia about process, I think we can dismiss.”

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