Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), who represents the Washington suburbs, is arguably the most vulnerable Republican House member. After the Democrats’ sweep in Virginia’s off-year elections, The Post reported:
Tuesday’s signs of growing enthusiasm among Democrats in the Trump era could herald challenges next year for Republicans in swing areas. In Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, for example, Republican Barbara Comstock last year won another term, but [Hillary] Clinton finished ahead of [President] Trump there. On Tuesday, seven Republican incumbents in the state legislature with districts touching Comstock’s were defeated by Democrats. In Loudoun County, the heart of the 10th District where [Ed] Gillespie three years ago narrowly won running for U.S. Senate, he lost Tuesday by more than 23,000. Precincts across the 10th District gave [Ralph] Northam a win of more than 55 percent on Election Day, significantly more than in the race four years ago, and built upon the same political trends seen in precincts statewide.
These voters — especially women — really do not like President Trump, and took it out on everyone with an “R” after his or her name. Since then we’ve seen the outbreak of additional sexual harassment scandals (which Comstock is attempting to address, albeit without calling for a forum for Trump’s accusers), ongoing attempts to hollow out the government (where many of Comstock’s constituents work), continued threats of a trade war with China (which her constituents are smart enough to know is a disaster) and new developments in the Russia scandal — which are greeted by GOP attacks on the FBI.
Meanwhile, with all that, Comstock voted for the unpopular GOP tax plan, which seems particularly ill-suited to the needs of her district. The Loudoun Times reports:
According to the Government Finance Officers Association, in 2015, 49 percent of federal tax filers in the 10th Congressional District claim the SALT deduction, above the national average of around 30 percent. In total, 10th District taxpayers deducted $3.39 billion in state and local taxes.
The final version of the bill retains the state and local tax deduction, but caps it at $10,000, including either sales taxes or property and income taxes.
That still leaves the 10th District coming up short, where the average state and local tax deduction among those who took it in 2015 was $13,562.13.
Consider an empty-nester couple in a nice, but not extravagant, house in her district making between $150,000 and $200,000. (Those people might sound rich, but they might, for example, be a schoolteacher and mid-level government contractor worker — with a mortgage and college tuition to pay.) According to at least one calculation, that couple — which has itemized not only for SALT but also for the mortgage deduction — now stand to get zero from the tax plan. They get nothing. And while Comstock touts the bill’s ability to bring jobs, her district has an unemployment rate below the national average. They are not unemployed; they’re squeezed.
Some residents of Virginia’s 10th Congressional District will benefit from the deal. Comstock was able to get a few nuggets for select constituents into the bill:
In a prepared statement released Tuesday, she pointed to a number of other provisions in the bill, including banning businesses from deducting settlements and fees for sexual harassment cases; maintaining deductions for student loan payments and classroom supplies purchased by teachers, which were both eliminated in the previous version of the House bill; and doubling the current exemption for the estate tax, a tax on passing down estates of $5.6 million or more after a person’s death.
In an interview after the vote, she particularly highlighted for Loudoun maintaining the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives and creating tax incentives for craft brewers, distillers, and wineries for two years, which she said will promote tourism.
But most residents aren’t in the wine business or involved in historic preservation and don’t have enormous estates. Saying that she merely kept what was already there to avoid further pain is thin gruel indeed.
Recall that Comstock voted against the GOP health-care plan. However, her tax plan vote included repeal of the individual mandate, which will raise premiums for those in the individual market (perhaps the 20-something adult child of the couple above). In a sea of blue, still voting like a standard-fare Republican in the Trump era seems misguided to say the least.
It’s unlikely that voters as infuriated with Trump and the GOP (as many of her constituents are) would vote to keep his agenda going even if they got a few hundred bucks from the tax plan. But getting absolutely nothing from the Trump agenda and feeling the daily bombardment from Trump’s outrages will leave many wondering why in the world they shouldn’t send an anti-Trump message by the only means available (just like 55 percent of them did in voting for Northam).
Comstock will be on the ballot next year, but the vote for many constituents will be against Trump. Her vote on the tax bill didn’t endear her to many angry constituents; on the contrary, it may have persuaded many in Virginia’s 10th to keep voting Democratic until Trump and his enablers are long gone.