MISSOULA -- Senate Republicans barely passed their tax reform legislation this past weekend in a 51-49 vote, with no support from the Democrats.
Protesters upset over the Republicans tax plan gathered on Wednesday at the steps of the Missoula County Courthouse.
Now that the Senate has passed its version of a tax bill, Montanans are asking how the tax overhaul could affect them, and many are asking their state leaders for answers.
"It truly is a non-partisan issue," said Missoula Lawyer Erin Erickson. "This goes far beyond identity politics. It goes beyond progressives, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans. This is a bill that has an impact on millions of Americans."
Democratic Senator Jon Tester said he is still sorting through the nearly 500-page tax bill almost a week since the Senate voted. He said from what he knows now, the plan would add $1.5 trillion to the national debt and the brunt of the bill would fall on working families.
He added that there was no effort from the other side of the aisle to receive "bipartisan buy-in."
"They never gathered public input. They never gave bi-partisan support. They never listened to folks on what could work and what wouldn't work," Tester said. "They just put out a bill and literally drafted it a few hours before we were to vote on it."
However, Republican Senator Steve Daines said the process has spread over the span of years, adding the approach was "open and transparent."
"We had literally years of hearings," Daines said. "There had been 70 hearings in the Senate Finance Committee regarding the tax code; how it can be improved, how it can be streamlined to work better for all Americans."
Daines added he voted yes on the bill because he was able to secure billions of dollars for "Main Street businesses" in Montana and across the states.
Now, the Senate bill still needs to be reconciled with the House version before it can go to the President's desk.
President Trump has said he wants to sign a bill by Christmas.
Mark R Thorsell
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