New GOP goal, same GOP problem…The effort for tax reform legislation is showing signs of similar trouble as in healthcare. It is the 2nd big agenda item for Republicans this year and once again, the division among members of the same party is potentially stealing a victory.
The GOP on Capitol Hill have failed to win a major legislative victory this year in spite of the fact that they have the first unified Republican government in a decade. They face significant pressure from within and without to meet their self-imposed deadline of the end of the year. A victory would generate momentum as they head into the midterm elections of 2018.
Significant moves are now being made to reach their goal. The House has cleared its 2018 fiscal year budget, and the Senate Budget Committee advanced its own measure through party lines. The moves will now make possible a procedure that will allow the GOP to bypass a filibuster by the Democrats and pass legislation with just 51 votes.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) sums up the gravity of the situation saying that Republicans must do whatever it takes to make good on their years-long tax reform pledge.
“Some have said that tax reform is a do or die moment for the GOP. I wholeheartedly believe that. Not just because we might lose an election. …. [But] Republicans have promised for some time now that we will deliver meaningful, comprehensive tax reform,” said Hatch. He will be central to crafting the GOP tax plan.
The most vocal Republican critics of the tax plan in the Senate are GOP Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Rand Paul (Ky.). They are putting their own “red lines” into place, and it will toughen the party leadership’s path to finding consensus. Corker, a leading skeptic who is retiring after 2018, has vowed he won’t vote for “one penny’s worth of deficits.”
“I want to tax reform to reduce the deficit,” he said. “I want it to be pro-growth, and I want it to be permanent.”
An analysis from the Tax Policy Center, which didn’t factor in economic growth, warned that the proposal Republicans released last week would add about $2.4 trillion to the deficit in 10 years, and another $3.2 trillion in the next ten years. Republicans responded that the study was biased and said it made unfair assumptions.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — a libertarian-leaning Republican who foiled GOP leadership during the healthcare debate — is threatening that the new tax plan will raise taxes on the middle class.
“I don’t want to vote for a plan that cuts some taxes but raises them on others, especially not on the middle class. So I want everyone to see the errors in their plan, look for solutions, and come together for a plan that can pass,” Paul wrote.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is sounding the alarm against setting hard demands as they try to find the way to 50 votes.
“You may have noticed in the Senate, we have a really narrow majority. 52 Republicans, and at this point, it’s a little bit difficult to get 50 Republicans to agree on what time of day it is,” he said. He added that it is “dangerous … for anyone to be in the business of drawing red lines. If we get too many red lines drawn in too many directions, this isn’t going to get done.”
And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a formidable opponent to previous GOP measures, has said continually that he wants tax reform to be bipartisan. At this point, he is non-committal. “I want to see what the whole package. That is not clear yet,” he said. The Arizona senator voted against both Bush-era tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. He is not afraid to go against his party.
When Tennessee Senator Bob Corker was asked if he thought Congress had the “intestinal fortitude” to pass a bill, he noted, “Well we’ll have to see, won’t we? Not a great track record.”
Do you think the GOP will pull it together to get tax reform done by the end of the year?
Credit: The Hill