Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) loves regular order in Congress.
He loves it so much he cited the Senate's move away from it as his reason for being the deciding vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act during the summer.
He loves it so much he wrote a Washington Post opinion piece calling for the Senate to return to it just as the fall session was getting underway, with Congress facing a backlog of important legislation the Republican majority desperately wanted to pass.
On Thursday, McCain announced he will vote for the tax reform bill moving through the Senate at lightning speed in all defiance of the regular order he has so championed:
I believe this legislation, though far from perfect, would enhance American competitiveness, boost the economy, and provide long overdue tax relief for middle class families.
I take seriously the concerns some of my Senate colleagues have raised about the impact of this bill on the deficit. However, it's clear this bill's net effect on our economy would be positive.
Before we go on, it might be helpful to say something about regular order. As McCain himself — or one of his staff — wrote in that Washington Post editorial:
I argued during the health-care debate for a return to regular order, letting committees of jurisdiction do the principal work of crafting legislation and letting the full Senate debate and amend their efforts.
McCain mentioned it again in his statement Thursday, saying he was pleased this tax reform bill went through regular order. But that is stretching the definition of regular order, if one thinks of it as a deliberative process that gives lawmakers all the information they need.
Regular order would include those committees gathering all the information they need to help craft the legislation. That would include scores of the bill from the Congressional Budget Office, analysis of the bill by the Department of Treasury and the Joint Committee on Taxation, and other governmental offices that can give legislators a complete picture of the long-term effects of such an enormous, wide-reaching bill on the country.
Instead, the Republican majority rushed the bill through one committee in two weeks. They have brought it to the floor without a CBO score or an analysis by the Senate parliamentarian to determine if all of its language meets the standards for the reconciliation process the GOP is using to pass it with a simple majority instead of a 60-vote supermajority.
Shoot, the GOP brought it to the floor before the bill's final text has even been written. Which means McCain has now committed to voting on a bill that no one has fully read, much less analyzed.
So it is unclear to me why it is so clear to McCain the bill's “net effect” on the economy would be positive. It is even more unclear how this counts as regular order.
To get a sense of just how badly the GOP wants to push this bill through without a full debate of its impact, see this story from The New York Times, which reported that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has shut out career tax experts in the department whose analysis of the bill's effects tell him something he doesn't want to hear:
An economist at the Office of Tax Analysis, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize his job, said Treasury had not released a "dynamic" analysis showing that the tax plan would be paid for with economic growth because one did not exist. [...]
A Treasury official said that there was not sufficient time to produce a full analysis with growth and revenue estimates of the final bill, which the Senate Finance Committee passed before Thanksgiving.
Someone needs to ask McCain if this is really the regular order he so cherishes. And if it is, how it is better than the Trumpcare debate over the summer that so hurt his feelings.