Republicans are losing the public relations battle on their tax-cut bills. While a tax bill cleared the House last week, several Senate Republicans appear skeptical of their chamber's version. And polls show that Americans are much more opposed to the GOP's tax effort than supportive — a fact that has to be weighing on those same wavering Senate Republicans.
A new report should make it even more difficult for these GOP senators to get to yes.
The report from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, released Monday, contains this very unhelpful passage:
On average in 2027, taxes would rise modestly for the lowest-income group, change little for middle-income groups, and decrease for higher-income groups. Compared to current law, 9 percent of taxpayers would pay more in 2019, 12 percent in 2025, and 50 percent in 2027.
It's not difficult to see this winding up in just about every piece of Democratic pushback on the Senate GOP's tax bill. “Half of Americans would wind up paying more in taxes” is a pretty powerful talking point — as is “the wealthy clearly benefit from this bill, but the middle class doesn't.”
The big reason for the jump in those paying more taxes in 2027 is that the Senate GOP's bill lets personal tax cuts expire in 2026, while making its corporate tax cuts permanent. The reason Republicans did this was to curb the cuts' effect on the deficit. Essentially, the complex workings of the Senate require that the bill increase the deficit only so much ($1.5 trillion over 10 years) if it is to be passed through what's known as “budget reconciliation.” Passing something through reconciliation allows for it to clear with 50 votes rather than 60, by not allowing for a Democratic filibuster. So Senate Republicans were forced to reduce the deficit impact somewhere. They chose to sunset the individual income tax cuts in 2026 and to eliminate Obamacare's individual mandate.
Whether either of those things are contained in the final package, we'll have to see. Republicans seem to be basically including these things just so they can pass something — anything — that would allow them to bring the Senate bill and the House bill to a conference committee. But whatever comes out of the conference committee would also have to pass in both chambers and would be subject to budget reconciliation rules.
And that's if it even gets to that point. For now this is what the Senate GOP is preparing to vote on. And Democrats can credibly make an argument that the GOP is voting to raise taxes on half of Americans — half of Americans who happen to not be among the wealthy. They can also credibly argue that eliminating the individual mandate could lead to millions of Americans no longer having health insurance. That's a pretty potent one-two punch.
The House could also vote to simply pass whatever passed through the Senate, which would not require a conference committee and would send the bill straight to President Trump. In other words, this Senate bill could be the final product. You might remember last time we were in this situation — on replacing Obamacare — some Senate Republicans wanted to vote for their bill with the assurance that the House wouldn't just take the same bill and pass it. Essentially, they wanted to ensure that the bill they were voting for wasn't enacted into law. (Isn't Congress great?)
The GOP's desire to pass something is extremely strong right now. They are 10 months into control of Washington without a major legislative victory. But to make that happen, it is being forced to make some decisions that could prove extremely problematic politically. This report drives that point home.