TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Sanchirico: GOP Tries To Tighten The Screws On Dems With Tax Reform 2.0

The Hill op-ed:  GOP Tries to Tighten the Screws on Dems With 'Tax Reform 2.0', by Chris Sanchirico (Pennsylvania):

This week, House Republicans are poised to release what they are calling “Tax Reform 2.0," their update to last December’s massive rewrite of the tax code. GOP leaders promise a floor vote by the end of the month.

As a matter of substance, and against the backdrop of December’s historic changes, the new proposals are more “0” than “2." But as a matter of politics, they put Democrats in a tough position heading into the midterm elections. Still Democrats may have some options. ...

For several reasons, the proposal has little actual substance. In the first place, the Senate is unlikely to pass it. The exception that allowed Republicans to get last December’s bill through the Senate with a simple majority will not apply to Tax Reform 2.0. In any event, the Senate appears to have little interest and less time. ...

Politically, however, the planned House vote on Tax Reform 2.0 may carry some real weight. The House is in contention in November’s elections. Nearly 10 percent of districts are up for grabs, more than necessary to swing the House to either side.

With House passage of Tax Reform 2.0, Republicans send a potent political message — some combination of “Here’s what we’ve done for you lately,” and “see, you still need us."

A Democrat in a swing district who votes against “making middle-class tax cuts permanent” will have some explaining to do. He or she won’t necessarily be able to count on polling data showing that only around 40 percent of the public support the December tax reductions. That’s the whole law. What’s at issue here are its popular bits.

That leaves swing-district Democrats with an interesting strategic decision — one that might be appreciated by tacticians on either side of the aisle.

Here’s a question that likely to come up in any spitballing session: Why shouldn’t the Democrats just vote for it? Why isn’t the best political response to take the choice they are being offered at face value? Forced to decide between the December tax cuts with the popular portions or without them, they choose “with."

The risk, of course, is that Democrats are viewed as conceding that Republicans have been right all along on tax policy. But there is some backfire risk in Republicans’ December strategy that Democrats might exploit to counter this “told you so."

If it is true what Republicans will be saying — that it really does matter that these middle-class tax cuts be made permanent now — then why didn’t Republicans make them permanent last December? Back then, when they had to make their $1.5 trillion mark, they had a number of choices.

“When push came to shove,” says a hypothetical Democrat, “they shoved the middle class under the bus and saved coveted permanence for the corporations.”

Even if Republicans can somehow get across the strategic considerations they faced in making that choice, they risk opening themselves up to the accusation that they were playing cynical partisan games.

One thing is certain: This will be an interesting and important show to watch over the next several weeks.

Tax | Permalink


1. Joe Sixpack doesn't know or understand the difference between the "good" and "bad" parts of the 2017 tax legislation.
2. The author fails to address the additional deficit that will be created by making the 2017 legislation permanent. The 2017 tax legislation already has driven the deficit higher than was projected by the "dynamic" scorers. At least some unaffiliated voters are uneasy with the existing legislation. Democrats can and will emphasize the ill effects of making the 2017 tax law permanent.
3. Before checking this website, I was reading a Politico article suggesting that the House Republicans are getting very nervous about their prospects and would like to get back to their districts ASAP to campaign. Every day they spend in DC working on a futile tax bill takes time from campaigning.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Sep 11, 2018 7:24:10 AM

An alert Tax 1 student asked yesterday why we call the middle class tax cuts "temporary." He said "Isn't all tax law temporary?" Good point.

Posted by: Roberta Mann | Sep 11, 2018 1:27:31 PM