Tax reform under the leadership of Congressional Republicans has been swift and contentious. Democrats and other opposition groups have attempted to publicly shame the Republican tax reform effort by focusing on the repeal of the Obamacare Individual Mandate and the anticipated rise in the number of uninsured Americans. Given the widespread distaste for the individual mandate, especially among Republicans, it has proven to be an ineffective strategy. Critics have also tried to derail the GOP effort by shining a light on their hypocrisy when it comes to ramming their bills through the legislature, which has also proven to be ineffective. Framing the tax reform effort as a “bad deal’ for average income and poor Americans has effectively soured public opinion, yet Congressional Republicans have blissfully pressed forward.
The strategies of Democrats and other reform critics have all revolved around one assumption: Republicans care about what the American People think. It is, of course, tempting to assume all Republicans are simply indignant toward voters, but many Republicans honestly believe they are doing the American People a public service by pressing forward in spite of negative public perceptions. Just as Democrats saw negative public perceptions as a product of Republican attacks when it came to the passage of Obamacare, Republicans see criticism of their tax reform effort as a product of Democratic attacks. It is also important to recognize the constituents of Congressional Republicans are far less critical of the GOP’s favoritism of big corporation and the wealthy. In fact, they firmly believe economic growth is the product of wealth trickling down from the top. It is, therefore, not surprising that Republicans ignore criticism of their tax reform effort.
Furthermore, Republicans were prepared for the attacks Democrats and other critics lobbed at them. By repealing almost every tax deduction and “wiping the board clean,” in order to pay for reforms and to simplify the tax code, Republicans knew they would face criticism. Every tax deduction has its supporters and beneficiaries, so the repeal of almost every tax deduction was guaranteed to elicit fierce opposition. Only the lobbyists, pundits, and activists who caused enough trouble for the reform effort would be allowed to keep their favorite tax deductions. Republicans also knew Democrats would never support the Republican initiative, especially under the leadership of a President they absolutely despised. As such, Republicans sought to short-circuit the legislative process by charting a course that would eliminate the need for Democratic input.
Among their many attempts to halt Republican progress, Congressional Democrats tried to insert various amendments into the House and Senate bills. One measure sought to make the temporary tax benefits for the Middle Class and poor permanent. This was one of many Democratic amendments favorable to average Americans that Republicans voted down. It certainly makes Republicans look bad, but that was the point. Although most Democrats likely supported the policies of their amendments, these changes would have derailed the Republican tax effort by forcing Republicans to rely on Democrats who never would have voted for the broader reform package. Quickly frankly, amendments like the aforementioned one were designed to either force Republicans to scrap tax reform or face public backlash. As Republicans were prepared to ignore public backlash, they simply voted down the amendments.
On the one hand, Democrats are wrong to use politically-motivated amendments to derail the Republican tax reform effort. On the other hand, Republicans are wrong to exclude Democrats from the legislative process. Obviously, there is no easy compromise for Republicans and Democrats, but that is precisely what the legislative process is supposed to force partisans to do. The abuse of parliamentarian rules has allowed Republicans to circumvent Democratic opposition and push forward with their agenda, but it has also forced Republicans to accept policies from special interests groups and the political fringe instead of building compromise between moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans. The result is a tax reform package that faces a great deal of very negative and very valid criticism.
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