On Wednesday, President Trump's top budget aides introduced the biggest tax cut in American history.
That's music to congressional Republicans' ears, who also want to revise the tax code. And, lucky for them, Republicans have a plan to get a tax overhaul through Congress without needing any Democratic votes.
But despite all that, we're still skeptical that Trump's tax cut is going to make it through Congress. For one, it's Congress, and a bet against them getting something done (see: health care) is usually a safer bet than the flip side. Two, conservative Republicans may be wary of a major increase in the deficit. And three, Trump is coming at this negotiation from a position of weakness rather than strength.
Here are eight sentences from players in and coverage of Trump's tax cut plan that underscore why it's not a given to pass Congress.
1. “I’m open to good ideas. The question is: Is that a good idea?”
That's Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which would consider Trump's bill, as quoted in The Washington Post. Hatch was questioning the centerpiece of Trump's plan: to let certain small businesses (and some big ones, like parts of Trump's real estate business) have their tax rate lowered to 15 percent, just like other large businesses.
2. It's “pretty aggressive.”
That's Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), the Senate's No. 2, expressing skepticism to the New York Times about Trump's tax cut, which could expound the deficit. (Less taxes the government collects = less money for the government = a bigger gap at the end of the year between what the government owes vs. what it made in revenue.)
3. “Many budget experts believe tax cuts of the size Trump will propose would lead the government to lose trillions of dollars in revenue over 10 years, ballooning the government debt.”
To our point above, that's The Post's Damian Paletta explaining how much Trump's plan could cost the government.
4. “What I don’t want to see is that this tax reform is going to be paid for by magic.”
That's Maya MacGuineas, president of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, as quoted by The Post.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says Trump doesn't plan to offset trillions of dollars of tax cuts by tax increases elsewhere. Rather, they plan to make up for it with “economic growth” that naturally comes from giving businesses more money.
MacGuineas appears skeptical that banking on economic growth is a viable fiscal plan. The question is: What will deficit-hawk Republicans in Congress think? (It's possible they might not object. At least one influential conservative group, the Club for Growth, has no problem with this plan. And Hatch, the top Senate tax writer, said the deficit is not his primary concern.)
5. “Even a temporary tax cut in the corporate tax rate … [can] run afoul of those reconciliation rules.”
That's the Wall Street Journal explaining that cutting the corporate tax rate temporarily (as Trump's plan would do) could increase deficits beyond the decade Trump's plan would be in effect.
That is an important technicality. If something substantially affects the budget beyond a decade, it's possible Senate Republicans won't be able to pass tax reform under a special budget rule called reconciliation that allows them to avoid a Democratic filibuster.
6. “They don't need a tax break while working class Americans need help staying afloat.”
.@POTUS Very wealthy are doing pretty well. God bless 'em. But they dont need a tax break while working class Americans need help staying afloat.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) April 26, 2017
That's Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday, outlining Democrats' philosophy to tax cuts. They haven't outright expressed opposition to Trump's plan, but you can see them building the framework to eventually oppose it.
Like we said, there's a chance Republicans in Congress can pass Trump's tax plan without any Democratic votes. But if they do need Democrats — well, they could have trouble getting enough.
7. “We’ve learned that the House Republican Party, to its credit, is enormously diverse in its opinions, but that also sometimes creates larger challenges in bringing them together on a big legislative issue.”
That's Marc Short, the White House director for legislative affairs, reflecting to The Post's White House team about their struggles getting any major legislation through Congress. And while Short was speaking in broad terms, it is worth pointing out that nothing is a given in Congress these days, especially in the ideologically split House Republican Party. (Again: See health care.)
8. “Trump, the least-popular new president in modern times, has an average approval rating currently hovering in the low 40s.”
That's the very last sentence of the Post story, above. It's an important one: It underscores that Trump may still be popular among his base, but he's not with a majority of the American people. And that means he has less leverage with the people's representatives in Congress, should all the concerns above manifest.