Republicans Are Already in Deep Trouble on Tax Cuts

I have always assumed that Republicans will pass some form of tax cuts. I still wouldn’t bet against that probability. But to understand just how much trouble they’re in right now when it comes to getting that done, take a look at the quotes Burgess Everett and Josh Dawsey rounded up.

“We look at the Senate and go: ‘What the hell is going on?’” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said in an interview Friday.

“The House passed health care, the House has already passed its budget, which is the first step of tax reform. The Senate hasn’t done any of that. Hell, the Senate can’t pass any of our confirmations,” Mulvaney fumed in an interview, slapping a table for emphasis. “You ask me if the Republican-controlled Senate is an impediment to the administration’s agenda: All I can tell you is so far, the answer’s yes.”…

Trump complained in front of TV cameras that the Senate is “not getting the job done” and said he sees where Steve Bannon — his former chief strategist now planning to run primary challengers against incumbent Republican senators — “is coming from.”

And House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), when asked Monday to name the biggest impediment to tax reform, replied: “You ever heard of the United States Senate before?”

The finger-pointing has already begun, and they haven’t even produced a piece of legislation yet. Everett and Dawsey go on to point out that things are looking so bad that Sen. Ron Johnson is already pitching his own tax cut plan as the alternative when this one fails.

“I don’t want to be a problem child here, but what I’m offering is a plan B,” Johnson added. “If they can’t get the votes … I’ve got an alternative.”

What Speaker Ryan doesn’t want to acknowledge is that the current tax cut framework isn’t just facing trouble in the Senate.

The House is sure to labor to pass tax reform, too. Members from high-tax states are already rebelling against plans to gut the deduction for state and local taxes.

It might be that all of this finger-pointing isn’t merely a way to set others up to take the blame when/if Republicans fail to pass any tax cuts. As Mulvaney suggested to Everett and Dawsey, it is actually a way to apply pressure.

But maybe, he suggested, the pressure on McConnell and “the Senate’s failure to pass health care might actually help us to get tax reform passed. Because I think they know they need to get something done.”

But if Mulvaney and others think that McConnell requires this kind of pressure to pass tax cuts, they demonstrate their own ignorance of the Senate Majority Leader, while further undermining his position. The very fact that Mulvaney is suggesting that McConnell and the Senate require pressure to pass tax cuts tells you that he thinks the whole endeavor is in trouble.

These dynamics are presenting us with the fascinating spectacle of Donald Trump attempting to play the role of peacemaker between McConnell and Bannon. That’s what the whole Rose Garden appearance was about yesterday.

Trump sought to unite Republicans with a public embrace of McConnell, who stood next to the president in the White House Rose Garden on Monday during an impromptu 40-minute news conference. Trump declared his party “very unified,” described himself as “closer than ever before” with McConnell and said he’d ask Bannon to back off a promised “season of war” against Republican incumbents.

There are deep fears in the White House and among Republicans that the tax overhaul, considered vital for next year’s midterms by the party’s strategists, will follow Obamacare repeal to the legislative ash heap. That would likely leave Trump without a substantive legislative accomplishment after a year in office.

Bannon is obviously having none of it.

Steve Bannon won’t abandon his war against congressional Republican incumbents, not even after President Donald Trump publicly pleaded for a truce that could salvage the tax overhaul at the heart of his legislative agenda.

Trump’s ousted chief strategist will continue to back insurgent candidates who pledge to usurp Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a person familiar with Bannon’s plans said. His message was made plain on Monday on the Breitbart News website he once again runs: “Bitter Mitch! Triggered by Bannon,” one headline crowed.

Both Trump and McConnell want to pass tax cuts in an attempt to save their own skin. But if Bannon is prepared to forgo a Republican majority in order to play the long game of taking control of the GOP, I suspect he isn’t all that concerned about whether or not tax cuts are passed. As a matter of fact, his declared war with the Republican establishment will get quite a boost if tax cuts fail.

Frankly, I don’t have a dog in this fight. And this is certainly not a case where the enemy of my enemy is my friend. I’d be hard-pressed to come up with three people who have done more damage to our country than Trump, McConnell and Bannon. So all I’ll say is “Please proceed, fellas.”

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.