It finally happened! Trump and Republicans got to be winners as a close vote of 51 to 49 passed one of the most sweeping tax reforms plan in recent decades. All Democrats and one Republican Senator Bob Corker voted against the bill which they claimed would be a tax break for the wealthy and a tax increase for the middle class while letting the deficit spiral upwards.
The passing of the bill is a huge relief for a party which has been riven by internal divisions and caught up in an ideological civil war between old-school moderates and those who believe in the ideas and ‘values’ of Trumpism. After repeatedly failing to repeal Obamacare, the GOP has been fatally divided and the tax reform bill was constantly in danger of being derailed by various competing interests.
Now, McConnell has finally done his job right and despite a narrow vote, he has delivered a win to his boss. The Republicans can finally achieve their dream of reforming tax legislation.Trump can finally point to something other than his appointment of a Supreme Court Judge. He can finally say he’s winning.
This might not be the end though. There’s still a way to go before it lands on Trump’s desk. The bill must go through Committee for the differences between the House and the Senate to be hammered out. This might end up delaying the bill as the Senate’s version is markedly different from the version the House passed, notably the decrease in corporate tax and whether it is effective immediately or over time. Given that the GOP control both Houses, it might be passed through easily.
However, the tax reform has been a closely fought battle all the way through and many of the additions in it were mostly to appeal wavering Senators rather than benefit the nation as a whole. The House will be pleased to see the unpopular Obamacare mandate repealed but it’s still unclear whether they will accept a rise in the deficit. A further delay in 2018 or a sudden derailment of the bill is still possible, though increasingly unlikely.
It is also unclear whether this win will spare the Republicans from a growing political backlash. The tax reform bill is clearly unpopular across much of the country and even conservative voters are uneasy about giving billionaires and corporations bigger tax cuts. Democrats argue that the tax reform bill undermines one of the key Republican principles of not increasing taxes for the middle class.
In addition, the news of the tax reform has been mostly overshadowed by the news of Mueller’s investigation and Flynn’s guilty plea along with Trump’s diplomatic spat with UK Prime Minister Theresa May. The special election in Alabama and the allegations against Roy Moore also raises worrying signs for many in Congress that Democrats might flip Alabama from red to blue. Such a win would be a major boost ahead of crucial 2018 mid-term elections.
The legislative victory could also be overshadowed again if discussions over the debt ceiling continue to stall. Trump has sent mixed messages over the prospect of a government shutdown, stalling negotiations between Republicans and Democrats. Forcing the federal government to shut down soon after signing new tax laws is hardly an impressive image, less so if reconciliation is delayed.
Trump has finally won and the GOP can finally say they pass a major piece of legislation. But at what cost?