Every once in a while, Chris Matthews is a pleasure to watch, and last night, he pinned GOP Rep. Charlie Dent to the specimen mat and put him under the microscope over his support for the top tier tax cuts.
"Mr. Dent, I'm interested in your vote. You're giving up the Congress, but you're voting pro-business. Aren't you?" Matthews said.
"Well, yeah. I'm leaning yes. I'm still reviewing the bill." (Translation: Now that I'm not running for reelection, I'm looking to foam the runway for my next career!)
Notice that Tweety has the details down -- or close enough.
"The top rate goes from 39.6 down to 37. That's a huge bundle of money for wealthy people. If you make in the millions, these are $100,000-for-every-million-you-make tax cut." Matthews said.
"So if you make a lot of money, it's $100,000 per million. These people make a lot of money in the tax cut here because of Trump."
Dent said he would have preferred the higher rate, "but I think the reason was because of the state and local tax deduction. They want to give some benefit."
"Why would you vote to double the exemption for estate tax so somebody could give any estate tax. That's a lot of money.
Dent repeated the Republican boilerplate about protecting "family farms," which we know is a cover story for large agricultural business.
"Is that the purpose of this thing?" Matthews said bluntly.
"It's better than repealing it outright," Dent said.
"A little Christmas gift to the wealthy. The corporate tax goes down from 35 to 20. That's a lot more money they keep in the corporations, in their till," Matthews said.
"21," Dent corrected.
"Okay. Okay. 21. 35 to 21. Then you take down the top rate down to 37. Then you get rid of the alternative minimum tax. Then you get rid of double the exemption for the estates. If you're making a lot of money, you get breaks everywhere in this thing. Maybe not with the tax deduction for the state and local. But everywhere else you're making a bundle," Matthews said.
Rep. Leonard Lance, a Republican from New Jersey who is not voting for the bill, said he did favor doubling the standard deduction and said it would help "many Americans."
"While Republicans are getting some serious pushback over a last-minute change they inserted into the tax plan. News of the change was uncovered by International Business Times over the weekend which reported, quote, 'the new provision was not in the bill passed by the House or the Senate,' " Matthews said.
"Instead, it was inserted into the final bill during reconciliation negotiations between Republicans and both chambers. The last-minute tweak would supply tax breaks to companies based on investments and guess what? Real estate. The number two Republican in the Senate, John Cornyn from Texas, was asked about the change during his interview on ABC News. Let's watch him."
CORNYN: "So picking out one piece in a thousand-page bill and saying, well, this is going to benefit somebody, i just think it takes a whole bill out of context."
"Except that this provision wasn't included in the House or Senate bill, apparently was added at the last minute. Why was that done?" Matthews prodded.
"We were working very hard. It was a very intense process. The Democrats refused to participate. And we've tried to do is cobble together the votes we need odd to get this bill passed," Dent said.
Matthews retorted it was "pure political expediency."
"The change would be a multimillion-dollar tax windfall for real estate investors like President Trump's children and several members of Congress. You know, when the Senate doesn't pass something and the House doesn't pass it, how are the people involved?
"How does this come out of a meeting between the House and the Senate and why don't we give a little break to the real estate industry and then we can get a couple more votes out of this. That's what he just said. The top whip of the Senate said the reason we're putting this in is to help pull together enough votes to get it passed in both houses. But it wasn't passed in either house. The representatives never voted for this thing yet it's been thrown in over the weekend. The public never voted for that thing. Is that democratic government?" Matthews demanded.
"Is it government by the people?"
"Well, I'll tell you, as I understand that provision, I just left the meeting," Dent said.
"Why did they throw it in over the weekend when nobody is watching before the bill is voted on? It doesn't come from the people," Matthews said.
Dent said he thought the part that was a provision dealing with real estate investment in industrial parks. "The pass-through provisions of this bill are very complex. And most of the benefits are going to accrue to companies that invest in capital," he said.
"Some lobbyist parachuted into the conference room and pushed it?"
"I'm not sure who parachuted in. I understand... " Dent said.
"I know how it works. You think this is a nice piece of legislation?" Matthews asked Rep. Lance.
"I'm voting no tomorrow," Lance said.