It Doesn’t Get Easier For The GOP After Healthcare

With senior Senate Republicans even saying that it is time to move past healthcare, you might think that things might get easier for Republicans in the next few months but that doesn’t look like it will be the case. Trump may be demanding that the Senate keep on trying to pass healthcare but more and more Republicans in both houses of Congress want to move on to “tax reform” where they believe they will be able to find far more common ground within their caucus.

Martin Longman points out, however, that Republicans are now apparently split about the actual tactics to use in order to pass tax reform. Republicans in the House seem to want to move on tax reform as part of passing a budget and they would like the Senate to use the budget reconciliation process which would only require 51 votes to pass it. Some others in the Senate and even in the White House want to try to pass a bipartisan tax reform bill outside of reconciliation which would require at least eight Democratic votes. Obviously, the fact that Democratic votes will be required means that whatever “tax reform” that passes will be far less generous than what the reactionary right, especially in the House, will want or demand.

An additional incentive for Senate Republicans to not use the budget reconciliation process to pass tax reform is that it allows them to still use the budget reconciliation process to make another pass at healthcare. That opportunity would disappear if they actually passed a budget that included tax reform, meaning that Republicans would have to wait until next year’s budget in order to pass healthcare under reconciliation. That might not be the most opportune time, just months before an election, to revive a bill that polls in the teens. And, Longman points out, the long-awaited indictment of New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez will probably be coming soon, especially with Trump and Sessions controlling the DOJ. If he is forced to resign, Chris Christie will be able to appoint a Republican as Senator, adding another, decisive GOP vote for healthcare.

In addition, it is not like Republicans are anywhere close to passing or even agreeing on a budget. They were unable to do so last year and it seems quite possible they will be unable to again this year. Whatever might pass the House will probably be unacceptable to even 50 GOP Senators. If tax reform gets tied to the budget and even that fails, then Republicans would have failed at every one of their top three priorities. The base will be furious.

Longman, however, fails to also mention the potential impact of the debt ceiling vote on the budget, tax reform, and perhaps even healthcare. According to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, the debt ceiling must be raised by the end of September which does not leave the Republicans a lot of time to get it done. Since getting that done will require Democratic votes, you would hope that Schumer has extracted at least some concessions from McConnell on at least tax cuts or the budget or both. Hopefully that would include a promise to have revenue neutral tax cuts and to block the deep spending cuts that the reactionary right in the House will demand.

All of this will make an interesting time for Republicans after the August recess. And if they road ahead isn’t difficult enough, they will also have Trump to deal with as he sees the agenda failing and continues to lash out at Congressional Republicans.
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