(CNN) — The House Ways and Means committee began its work Monday on a massive tax overhaul, but the day quickly devolved into a partisan food fight, with Democrats claiming Republicans were rushing their bill in an effort to score political points.
Just minutes into the hearing, Democrats tried to postpone the mark-up all together arguing that the parties had not had enough time to properly digest the 429-page bill that was just introduced last week and hadn’t been the focus of committee hearings.
“This bill needs some vetting,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat from Texas, said. “In the President’s words, it needs extreme vetting.”
But Republicans rebuffed the Democratic effort. Instead GOP members were united as they lauded their legislation as a tax break for businesses and Americans across the board. After nearly six hours of discussion, the committee’s chairman, Kevin Brady of Texas, introduced a multi-faceted amendment that Democrats once again argued was cloaked in secrecy.
Rep. Sandy Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, compared Brady to an “authoritarian” for bringing up the amendment without having briefed Democrats on it.
“Are you people essentially authoritarians?” Levin asked. “You make a mockery out of this committee. A mockery and you know it.”
Democrats’ attacks throughout the day were varied with some arguing that the GOP tax bill did away with key deductions that middle class taxpayers depended on including one that allows teachers to write off the cost of any school supplies he or she buys for their classroom or a deduction for families who adopt children. At times, Democrats’ messaging appeared to be all over the board.
In one especially angry exchange, Rep. Mike Thompson of California accused Brady, a Texan, of not doing enough to provide tax relief to disaster victims. Thompson who represents an area that was devastated by wildfires, argued that Brady protected victims of the hurricane that just hit Houston but not victims of future disasters.
At one point, Thompson banged his fist on the dais, saying he is advocating for “nine thousand people whose homes were burned to the ground.”
Brady, who represents a district just north of Houston, mentioned that he also has constituents who suffered from a natural disaster when Hurricane Harvey caused severe flooding.
“You took care of them,” Thompson fired back.
Rep. John Larson, a Democrat from Connecticut, screamed loudly at Republicans because they are proceeding with this tax markup without a hearing, calling it a “great charade.”
Lawmakers are expected to continue marking up the bill for several more days.
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