President Trump was so excited about passing his first major piece of legislation Wednesday that he blurted out that the Republican Party had misrepresented the entire bill, handing Democrats some potentially troublesome talking points for the 2018 midterm elections.
Speaking at the White House just before the House prepared to sign off on the tax-cuts bill one last time, Trump reveled extensively in his win before turning things over to Vice President Pence to heap praise upon him continuously for a few minutes. It was a thoroughly unique spectacle, even as victory dances and Trump Cabinet meetings go.
But along the way, Trump basically admitted that the GOP's talking points on the bill weren't exactly honest in two major ways.
While talking about the corporate tax rate being cut from 35 percent to 21 percent, Trump said, “That's probably the biggest factor in our plan.”
The problem? Republicans have been selling this legislation as a middle-class tax cut, first and foremost.
- “The entire purpose of this is to lower middle class taxes.” — House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.)
- “Primarily, and priority number one, is middle-class Americans.” — White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders
- “The theme behind this bill is to get middle-class tax relief for most people in the middle class.” — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Fox News on Tuesday
And polls show Republicans have bought into this, with around 6 in 10 believing the bill favored the middle class over the wealthy — despite the biggest cuts going to the wealthy and the corporate cuts being permanent (unlike the personal tax cuts). Is it possible they think corporate tax cuts will spur the economy and eventually benefit the middle class first? Sure. But wary of it looking like a giveaway to the wealthy and to corporations, Republicans have avoided even this kind of “trickle-down” argument. They've been arguing that the middle-class tax cuts are what this bill was all about, and Trump just said that's not actually the main feature.
Trump's second admission was about the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate being repealed in the bill. Apparently eager to argue that this constituted his having cut taxes and slain Obamacare in one fell swoop (after Congress came up short on Obamacare this year), he argued that repealing the individual mandate was basically the same as repealing Obamacare.
But, he said, he told Republicans not to talk about that. Trump said he told allies to "be quiet with the fake news media because I don't want them talking too much about it."
“Now that it's approved, I can say that,” he said.
So now Democrats have clips of the president talking about how this was really more about the corporate tax cuts all along and saying he just undid Obamacare — both of which weren't part of the argument for the bill. They also happen to be pretty good talking points, with the latter being something Democrats can credibly use to force Republicans into ownership of whatever happens with the American health-care system from now on.
Trump's desire to claim dual victories and strategic dominance appear to have gotten the better of him here.