Trumptax might split Republicans just like Trumpcare did
Trumpcare is out, Trumptax is in.
That’s the message from the Trump administration and most Republicans in Congress this week in an effort to move on from their failure to achieve consensus on a plan to replace Obamacare last week.
“Working with this Congress, President Trump is going to pass the largest tax cut since the days of Ronald Reagan,” Vice President Mike Pence told a crowd in West Virginia this past weekend.
Asked when Trump would touch health care reform again, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “When it breaks.”
But Trump’s moving on from Trumpcare doesn’t leave behind the Republican divisions that undid that vote.
Already there is sniping within the Republican conference over House Speaker Paul Ryan’s tax reform proposal. The criticism centers on the border-adjustment tax that would levy a 20 percent tax on imports from all countries, a protectionist measure that would also help pay for other tax cuts. While most members of Congress have yet to take a position, outlines like we saw in the health care debate are already appearing.
Speaker Ryan and some of his close allies, like Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, are again on one side of the debate supporting the tax as President Trump shows openness and mild support. Brady is convening Republicans on his committee Tuesday in the hopes of achieving some consensus.
That may be difficult since conservative groups aligned with GOP mega-donors the Koch brothers, like Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity, are against the tax. Republican senators are openly hostile to it. And Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, a member of the Freedom Caucus, has said he has a “natural hesitancy” to support the tax.
Democrats, emboldened by Trump’s defeat on health care, again look poised to be unified against Trump tax reform, making Republican unity critical for passage. “The American people are not crying out for tax breaks on the wealthiest Americans,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Monday. “God bless the wealthy. They’re doing just fine without the tax breaks.”
These same intra- and interparty divisions will also be tested in the coming weeks and months by more than just tax reform. By April 28, Congress must pass a budget, or the government will shut down. Many conservative members of the House have suggested that the budget must cut funding for Planned Parenthood, but such a budget will almost certainty not pass the Senate. But without cutting Planned Parenthood funding, it’s uncertain whether the budget can pass the House.
And then there’s the debt limit, which is the amount of money the United States is allowed to borrow to keep meeting its financial obligations. Some time in the fall, it will have to be increased so the government can pay the bills.
Members of the Freedom Caucus have been reluctant to raise the debt ceiling before, and if they are again — President Trump and Paul Ryan may have no choice but to try to make a deal with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, which would further erode the relationship with the Freedom Caucus. Plus, the Democratic Party’s base is pressuring their representatives in Congress to not cut any deals with Trump.
In other words, Trumpcare may be just the opening salvo of many fights to come.