The Senate — the Republican Senate — is ready to sell us out, though it will be a very near thing. As I write from the press gallery, the place is buzzing like a beehive over this tax act and braced for a late night — aptly under cover of night.
By "us," I mean we everyday people. The tax bill Republicans mean to pass is an overstuffed turkey that will be served to and devoured by the very rich at the table. They're different from you and me, see?
The rest of us will settle for thin gruel and bare bones. Turkey marrow soup, anyone?
Tempers are shortening. Senator Bernie Sanders thundered on the floor, "Come down to the floor and tell me I'm wrong!" He contended that government social programs like Medicare and Social Security would soon suffer under the bill. No one came down to the floor.
President Donald Trump's America desperately depends upon passage of radical tax code change. Much is at stake, namely, the fundamental fairness in the taxation system President Clinton put in place in 1993.
But a massive redistribution of wealth is under way — just so "the rich can get richer," declared Democratic Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico. Obamacare? That will be undermined, just for good measure.
The crux of the Republican plan is to cut the rate businesses and corporations pay from 35 percent to 20 percent. This break is a sealed-with-a-kiss thank-you note to the Republican base of wealthy donors, who have made this cut their central demand.
Republican senators say a steep tax cut for business will create jobs and competitiveness. There's absolutely no evidence for this, but no worries. It's an article of faith they repeat often as if to justify throwing the nation's finances way out of whack.
And by the way, this overstuffed turkey adds more than a trillion dollars to the deficit — from the party that swears it cares about fiscal responsibility. (They just love business tax breaks more.)
Meanwhile, the plan does next to nothing — or less than nothing — for working-class and middle-class families. Any modest relief they have is set to expire. Obamacare premiums are projected to rise by 10 percent because the individual mandate, a linchpin, will be broken by the plan. That part strikes me as sheer spite toward Barack Obama's legacy, courtesy of Trump.
Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J., called the looming legislation "an erosion of the American dream."
The ramifications are huge. Remember, Trump has lost every major legislative battle in the Senate so far. Notably, his Obamacare repeal lost by one vote. Senator John McCain's, R-Ariz., thumbs-down was decisive, giving rise to a gasp in the midnight hour. McCain won't be the dissenter in this showdown. Yet a similar drama may unfold, living proof of how the country is divided into two political camps at war.
Now, at the end of the president's first year, Trump and Republican members of Congress are champing at the bit for bragging rights, something big and real to take home to their voters and districts. The tax act sailed through the rock-ribbed Republican House.
On the Senate side, a clenched optimism fills the ornate halls. Republican leaders try to count to 52 — the number of Republicans in the slim majority. They can afford to drop two votes, since Vice President Mike Pence breaks ties in the chamber. He will lie in waiting.
"I'm ready to saddle up and ride," declared Republican Senator John Kennedy, a southerner from the Bayou State.
But before the vote, I'm here to tell you a bit more about the reckless specter of "tax reform." Republican senators didn't deliberate or debate on the floor. Nor did they practice bipartisanship, the give and take of the best Senate tradition.
In character, Trump came for a showy lunch with all Republican senators this week. Give him this — he's a potent force and presence. He carries himself much like a Roman emperor, mobilizing his troops.
I was reminded of the late Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, a Roman Senate expert. Once he told me, "(Julius) Caesar did not seize power; the Senate ceded power to Caesar."
If only he could see this.
To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit creators.com.