Tax bill win's biggest victory for GOP is avoiding another Trump failure
Despite the sheer size and society-spanning impact of the $1.5 trillion tax overhaul, the quickest and most potent political victory that Republicans would savor by pushing the bill through Congress next week may be what it averts: another big GOP legislative crash in the age of Trump.
Even if Republicans are correct that tax cuts for business and the wealthy bolster the economy, it can take time for obvious results to show.
And even with millions of families likely to enjoy lower taxes, many won't feel much until they file their 2018 tax returns in early 2019. That's well after the November 2018 elections that may be a coin flip for control of Congress, and recent races suggest those contests may be heavily influenced by President Donald Trump's unpopularity.
Approval of the tax bill seems certain, with House passage assured and two of the few potential Senate GOP opponents lining up Friday behind the measure: Marco Rubio of Florida and Tennessee's Bob Corker. That means a White House signing ceremony, probably by Christmas.
Republicans hope that would overshadow their embarrassing failure to repeal President Barack Obama's health law. Another flop would have infuriated GOP backers and donors already enraged by the Affordable Care Act debacle, fueling hard-right primary challenges against Republican incumbents or encouraging conservatives to stay home in November.
If the tax bill isn't approved, "the country's reaction is going to be, 'Why did we put you in in the first place?'" said David Winston, a GOP pollster who advises congressional leaders.
"Passing the tax bill is necessary but not sufficient for Republicans to retain control of Congress in 2018," said GOP consultant Whit Ayres. "It does give the party a concrete accomplishment that they can take to the voters, and that's critical."
Democrats view the tax legislation as a rich political opportunity.
Surveys this month have shown clear majorities oppose the legislation. Quinnipiac University and Marist polls also find that at least 6 in 10 people surveyed say the bill would primarily help the rich. Analyses by Congress' nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation have shown most benefits going to corporations and the wealthy, with more modest help for middle- and low-income families, an attack angle Democrats are already using.
"It's daylight robbery," House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said last week. "And with every iteration, the GOP tax scam becomes even more cowardly, outrageous, dishonest, brazen. Theft from middle-class families, giving money from them to the richest people in our country and to corporations."