If you thought that the tax bill was bad before, the process rushed and secretive, wait until the final version gets jammed through days from now, with no score, no hearings and no understanding among most Republicans of what’s actually in the bill. The details remain sketchy, but it’s clear that the GOP figured out how to tip the bill even further in favor of the super-rich.
House and Senate Republican leaders have reached an agreement in principle that would lower the corporate tax rate to 21 percent beginning in 2018, several people briefed on the plan said, a central component of the $1.5 trillion tax plan they hope to vote into law by next week.
The agreement would also lower the top tax rate for families and individuals from 39.6 percent to at least 37 percent, a change that would deliver a major tax cut for upper-income households. . . . Democrats mounted a last-ditch effort to pressure the GOP to delay votes on the bill, arguing they should wait for Democrat Doug Jones — who defeated Republican candidate Roy Moore on Tuesday in an Alabama special election for a U.S. Senate seat — to join the chamber.
But Republicans rebuffed those attempts and are hoping to pass a final bill early next week.
If anything, Jones’s upset win in Alabama has stoked panic in the GOP ranks, not that their bill is a dud but that they must jam it through before Jones arrives.
I asked Sen. Susan Collins’s (R-Maine) office whether she felt compelled to wait for Jones. “Senator Collins doesn’t believe that the Alabama election should delay the timetable for tax reform,” her communications director, Annie Clark, said. ” The Senate has always planned to pass the tax bill before the end of the year, regardless of whether Moore or Jones won. Alabama will continue to be represented by Senator Strange until the election is certified, which might not be until after Christmas. It is typical for lame-duck members to continue voting until their replacements are sworn in.” Uh-huh.
Initial language emerging for the year-end spending bill did not appear to include aspects of two bills that Collins demanded, Alexander-Murray and Collins-Nelson, intended partially to offset the expected premium increases resulting from repeal of the individual mandate. If Collins goes along, she will make a mockery of her promises to protect the Obamacare exchanges. Clark told me, “She is going to look at the final package (like she always does).”
It doesn’t sound as though Collins or other senators are standing firm on elements they once deemed essential. (“[Collins] has expressed concern about lowering the top tax rate, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has complained that Republicans did not do more to further expand the Child Tax Credit. But neither has said whether they would oppose the bill.”) For Rubio, it’s another instance (as when he endorsed President Trump and voted to confirm Secretary of State Rex Tillerson) when big talk and high-minded principles crumble in the race of a vote.
GOP tax-cut advocates know full well that Rubio’s lack of spine will mean a vote for whatever the leadership puts under his nose. The Post reported:
“I have no idea why he didn’t stick to his guns. I’m sort of at a loss to explain it,” said Joshua McCabe, a tax expert at Endicott College who has written about the history of the Child Tax Credit.
Republicans appear ready to make that calculation again.
Rubio hasn’t publicly vowed to vote against the bill if the tax credit isn’t increased, and both Rubio admirers and critics are skeptical he’d do it.
“This isn’t a guy who wants to be off the reservation. [Rubio] wants to be a team player, and wants to be supportive of tax relief in general,” said April Ponnuru, a senior adviser at the Conservative Reform Network and a Jeb Bush adviser who has worked closely with Rubio’s office on trying to expand the credit.
Here we see the four defining features of the GOP — indifference to substance, anti-populism (the bill is right-wing, supply-side economics in its most cartoonish form), contempt for voters and intellectual incoherence. The result will be a hugely unpopular bill that favors the rich, grows the debt and widens inequality. Voters already have figured this out. Whether it is the USA Today-Suffolk University poll (32 percent approve, 48 percent do not), the Marist poll (52 percent say it will hurt them, 30 percent say it will help) or the Quinnipiac University poll (26 approve, 55 percent do not; 65 percent think it will favor the rich), voters are telling us that they don’t like the bill and think it’s a gift for the rich and big corporations.
Republicans seem determined to press on. One cannot help but think back to late 2009, when Democrats pushed through the Affordable Care Act, a bill they did not completely understand and that was very unpopular (until Trump came along). Democrats lost the House in 2010, and four years later, the Senate. Republicans should expect no less a drubbing.