Senate GOP leaders plan a last-ditch floor vote on their bill as soon as Thursday (November 30, 2017)–a dramatic moment that will come only after a marathon debate. Democrats are expected to try to delay or derail the measure, and the GOP must hold together at least 50 votes from its thin, 52-vote majority to prevail.
Their chances improved slightly last week when Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she’ll support repealing the “individual mandate” imposed by Obamacare–a provision that Senate tax writers are counting on to help finance the tax cuts. Murkowski had earlier signaled some reservations about the provision; and her support was widely viewed as a positive sign for the tax bill’s chances.
President Trump is scheduled to address Senate Republicans at their weekly luncheon Tuesday (November 21, 2017) afternoon on taxes and the legislative agenda for the rest of the year, according to a statement from Sen. John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.
If the tax bill clears the Senate–a critical stage in the process that’s far from certain–lawmakers in both chambers would have to hammer out a compromise between their differing bills, a process that presents potential snags of its own. For now, though, much of the Senate’s attention will focus on its legislation’s price tag.
A majority of Senate Republicans are expected to back the measure, but at least six have stopped short of saying they will vote for the tax cut package, according to the Washington Post. None of these lawmakers is seen as intractable, but Republicans can lose only two votes, or the bill will stumble. Here’s a rundown of this crucial GOP group.
Sen. Murkowski voted against a GOP effort to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act several months ago and has said she is still reviewing the tax plan. She is being watched very closely because Trump’s personal attacks at Murkowski after her opposition to the healthcare vote several months ago did not intimidate her and only seemed to harden her resolve. Murkowski was careful, however, to stop short of saying she would vote for the Senate GOP tax plan.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has also expressed concerns about the GOP tax cut plan in part because of the changes to the Affordable Care Act, but she has not said she would oppose it. She had a tax-focused event this month in Maine with Ivanka Trump, but that was before Senate Republican leaders decided to include the healthcare language in the pending bill.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) vowed to oppose an earlier version of the Senate GOP tax bill because he felt there weren’t enough benefits for certain types of corporations, but he has recently signaled that there might be changes to the bill that would win him over.
Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) and Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) have raised concerns of their own with the bill, particularly over how it would add to the government’s debt. But they have said they are still studying the legislation. And Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), who also opposed the earlier effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, has not said how he plans to vote.
Until now, nothing has slowed the tax reform tsunami, largely because opponents have been given neither the opportunity nor the time to do so. With Republican control of the House, passage of the House bill was assured on a strict party-line basis.
And even if some Republicans had unvoiced concerns, the process moved from publishing of proposed legislation (November 2nd) to mark-up by the House Ways and Means Committee (November 6th) to a full vote (November 16th) so quickly, that few had a chance to fully absorb the ramifications of the bill.
That pace, of course, was no accident, as Tony Nitti at Forbes points out. The House wanted to get the bill passed as quickly as possible; yes, in part to take a major step towards the legislative victory that has eluded the GOP since President Trump took over in January, but more importantly, because the sooner the bill was passed, the less likely that the truth regarding the substance of the plan would come to light and justify not voting for it.
Things are different in the Senate, however. Republicans don’t enjoy the same comfortable majority that thy do in the House; in fact, Republicans currently control only 52 seats, and using the streamlined budget reconciliation process, 51 votes are needed to get a tax bill through.
As a result, the GOP can afford only two defections (a 50-50 tie would lead to Vice President Mike Pence voting the deciding “yea” vote), meaning if tax reform is going to fall apart, it was always going to fall apart in the Senate, rather than the House.
Perhaps more troubling for the Senate, however, has been the pace, says Nitti. A vote was not scheduled until this week at the earliest, and based on what most tax pundits have learned about the bill, time is its biggest enemy. Because with time, the many faults of the proposal become public, putting pressure on three Republican Senators to cast reform-killing “nay” votes.
What information could become known that would swing a vote?
The GOP has sold the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts in both the House and Senate bills. They’ve learned from Trump to keep repeating the same three assurances over and over and over:
- The tax cuts will “pay for themselves” by creating substantial economic growth;
- The primary benefits of the tax cuts are ear-marked for the middle-class; and
- The richest 1% will enjoy no net benefit under the GOP plan.
The Republican tax plan is very swampy
Unsurprisingly, the Republican tax plan championed by Donald “Drain the Swamp” Trump, is very swampy says Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog. For example, there’s the fact that the corporate tax rate cut is permanent, while the individual cut is temporary. From the Los Angeles Times:
“A gambit by Senate Republicans to make a large corporate tax cut permanent by having benefits for individuals expire at the end of 2025 created new problems for the legislation as lawmakers were still grappling with the controversial decision to add the repeal of the individual mandate–a key Obamacare provision.”
“The decision by Republican leaders to double down on risky maneuvers to overcome budgetary hurdles with their tax overhaul threatened to put the entire effort in jeopardy.”
Don’t despair, Krieger asserts, “I promise there’s something in there for the average joe. For instance, after years of repression, owners of private jets will finally get that tax break they desperately need.”
As ZeroHedge points out, a recent Quinnipiac poll showed that this oligarch giveaway isn’t particularly popular. The WSJ reported: In a new Quinnipiac poll, 25% of American voters approve of the Republican tax plan, compared with 52% who disapprove. Among Republicans, support was 60%.
Mr. Trump has cast the tax plan as a boon to middle-class households. Nearly 60% of American voters in the Quinnipiac poll believe the Republican plan favors the rich at the expense of the middle class. About 24% of American voters say the middle class will mainly benefit from the tax plan, while 61% say the wealthy would be the primary beneficiaries.
About 36% of voters believe the tax plan will propel economic growth, while 52% don’t believe it will.Steve's Take: #GOP sprints on #taxreform plan as time and truth are its enemies Click To Tweet
As you watch the GOP sprint towards tax reform that has been three decades in the making, ask yourself this–why are they in such a hurry when the matter at hand is so critically important? Could it be because they realize that the only things that could prevent them from reaching their goal are time…and the truth?
During the presidential campaign, candidate Trump at countless rallies of his core, middle-class supporters said repeatedly: “I am your voice. I hear you. I feel your pain. I AM YOUR VOICE!”
Actually Mr. Trump, you’re not anyone’s voice other than your own. You see, you’re really an actor, and a third-rate one at that. Unlike one of your predecessors, Ronald Reagan, you’re incapable of stepping off the stage and speaking the truth, especially while the cameras are running.
That’s why you hate the press so much. They’re on to you. And a growing number of your core supporters are realizing they are, and were, merely extras in your self-absorbed movie, “How I Stole the US Presidency.”
Mr. Trump, people like your core group of hard-working, heartland-based, family values-oriented backers out there don’t like being tricked and lied to. They’re waking up. And your forced exodus from a very short run on the White House stage is drawing nigh.