Don’t be too quick to bet:
GOP leaders are weighing a series of votes to make last year’s temporary tax cuts for individuals permanent, according to Republicans in both chambers. The strategy would portray the party as the guardian of Americans’ paychecks, Republicans say, and buoy the GOP during a brutal election year.
Republicans argue they win regardless of whether it culminates with a Rose Garden ceremony: Either Democrats support the legislation, giving the GOP a major legislative accomplishment in its scramble to save its majorities. Or, more likely, Democrats block the bill — allowing Republicans to paint them as opponents of the middle class.
“Can you imagine Democrats voting that down? I mean, how do you explain that one?” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas). “I just think they’d be in an impossible position. They’d have to support it.”
No, they actually don’t, and they won’t either. We may not see a replay of Nancy Pelosi’s “crumbs” offensive, and almost certainly won’t get a return of the “TAX CUTS WILL KILL US ALL” hysteria, but it’s a safe bet that they’re not going to give Donald Trump a win this close to the election, either. Democrats still cast the tax bill as a dangerously irresponsible bill that will have long-term impacts on safety-net programs, and a capitulation on making the rates permanent will implicitly admit they were wrong all along.
But that’s what makes this a smart move by Republicans, albeit one that was telegraphed as plainly as possible. Senate rules did not allow for all of the new rates to become permanent in a reconciliation bill, and GOP leadership had to choose between making individual or corporate rates permanent. They chose the latter because (a) businesses need more certainty when it comes to investment choices, and (b) it’s far easier to argue for follow-up legislation on individual tax rates. That’s why Democrats and some in the media argued that the middle class would see no benefit from the tax bill, basing that on the expiration of those rates after eight years.
That, however, now becomes the GOP argument. How can Congress allow those voters to get the shaft? Republicans knew all along that they would have to have this fight. Why not have it immediately? They certainly need all the advantages they can get in this cycle. If Democrats were smart, they would pass this quickly and get it off the national radar, and just cut their losses on the foolish argument that a tax cut was the End Of The World As We Know It.
So far, though, there hasn’t been much evidence of strategic thinking from Pelosi & Co. They want to have a character debate and think it will trump — so to speak — the economic debate. That didn’t work in 2016, but who knows? The media certainly thinks that Stormy Daniels is the biggest story of 2018. Of course, they thought Hillary Clinton couldn’t possibly lose, either.