Tax Reform

Doug Jones' Election Probably Won't Kill the GOP Tax Bill

Senate Republicans will probably vote before the new Democratic senator is sworn in.

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Alex Edelman—CNP/Newscom

In the weeks since the GOP tax bill passed in the Senate, it has been something close to a foregone conclusion that some version of the legislation would eventually become law.

True, there were differences between the House and Senate versions, and they would have to be worked out in a conference committee before each chamber voted again on a unified bill. But none of those differences were likely to crater the entire process. President Trump wanted to pass tax legislation, and so did congressional Republicans. The policy framework was imperfect but good enough for most GOP lawmakers, they had the votes—and, perhaps most importantly, they desperately wanted a major legislative win.

If you were going to construct a scenario, however, in which the bill didn't pass, in which it somehow stalled out during the conference process, that scenario would have to start with the election of Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones in the special election in Alabama.

This would reduce the Senate GOP's majority to a single vote, in the process giving even more bargaining power to each individual Republican senator, since any party-line vote could withstand only a single defection, and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) already opposes the legislation because of how much it would add to the deficit. (Vice President Mike Pence would step in to break a tie.)

In this scenario, each individual GOP senator becomes a kind of temporary emperor of the tax code, able to extract concessions and alterations in exchange for casting the deciding vote. In particular, this could empower Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who tentatively supported the Senate bill, but refused to commit to supporting the final product until it was fully negotiated with the House.

For this scenario to come to pass, however, the tax reform vote would have to occur after Doug Jones is sworn into office, which could take weeks. And that is not likely to happen.

Although Senate Democrats spent this morning urging McConnell to delay the vote, it looks as if Senate Republicans are moving full speed ahead. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, confirmed today that House and Senate negotiators had reached an agreement. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tx.) indicated that a new bill is all but finalized. "We've got to get this thing wrapped up so we can get it on the floor next week," he said.

In a speech this morning urging McConnell to postpone the tax vote, Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer noted that McConnell himself had supported a delay when a similar scenario occurred in early 2010, shortly after Senate Democrats voted to pass the Affordable Care Act.

The initial plan had been to negotiate a new health care bill with the House and then have both chambers take another vote, but the surprise election of GOP Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts killed that plan. McConnell, at the time, supported delaying further votes until Scott Brown could be sworn in, and Harry Reid, then the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, agreed to slow the health care process.

The Alabama election is somewhat different in the sense that it was not primarily about the tax bill in the way that the Massachusetts election was driven by opposition to the Affordable Care Act, but Schumer has at least a partial point when he argues that McConnell would be hypocritical to move ahead.

But that is, in some sense, an argument that Mitch McConnell should not act like Mitch McConnell, and should instead prioritize a combination of hypocrisy avoidance and process transparency over a combination of political and legislative victory. There are good reasons to avoid the rushed and messy process that gave us the glitch-ridden Senate bill, but they are not reasons that McConnell, a ruthless and effective legislative tactician, has ever cared much about. As McConnell said on the night the tax bill passed in the Senate, after being asked about the hastily written legislation, "You complain about process when you're losing."

If the bill slows down, it will be because a handful of GOP senators demand it, not because McConnell relents on his own. Republicans want a win on the tax bill, and McConnell is likely to deliver it to them.

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  1. This would reduce the Senate GOP’s majority to a single vote, in the process giving even more bargaining power to each individual Republican senator…

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  2. Please. After Brown’s election Reid and the dems switched to reconciliation and deeming to pass obamacare. Stop pretending that they didn’t work around the problem of Brown’s election.

    1. Work around? Sure. But he got to vote.

      1. Actually he didn’t. The house coted to approce the senate bill. Then it was amended thru reconciliation after that.

        1. Ding. His election forced them to rely on a process that required only 50 votes instead of 60.

          So what happened is precisely analagous. You got a rushed version of a bill to overcome the loss of a seat.


  3. McConnell, a ruthless and effective legislative tactician

    Citation?

  4. McConnell, a ruthless and effective legislative tactician

    You misspelled “terrapin.”

    1. Hey now, I used to have a pet terrapin, and he would be insulted. Plus, he ate crickets.

  5. The GOP tax bill takes money from the poor and middle class and gives it to people who are already rich. I hope Doug Jones can help defeat it.

    1. All part of the media literacy that welch is so proud of.

      1. It’s cute seeing somebody pretend to think anything about Doug Jones today, ain’t it?

    2. When you want to join the cool kids, but you don’t parler la langue.

    3. takes money from the poor and middle class and gives it to people who are already rich

      Those words don’t mean what you think they mean.

    4. For your handy reference: How much spending do families receive per dollar of taxes they pay?

      You’ll notice that up to about $140000/year, people take more from the government than they give.

  6. So Trump won’t get credit for pushing for tax reform?

    Doug Jones will get credit for not being able to foil tax reform?

    1. What the hell are you talking about?

  7. In a heartfelt speech delivered on the Senate floor, someone pretended not to know that Mitch McConnell stole a Supreme Court seat and that this is small potatoes in his bag of evil.

    1. Perhaps Obama should’ve nominated a competent jurist. McConnell no more “stole” a SCOTUS seat than the Democrats did when they voted down Scalia.

      1. Sorry, Bork. Who sucked overall.

      2. Just give me a fucking break okay. Tired of the right-wing shilling going on here. It never fucking stops.

        1. Only in Tony’s world is the senate exercising its advise and consent powers “theft.” Funny how he wasn’t nearly so concerned when dems blocked bush 2 appointments. That was just good governance that was.

        2. Does whining often get you what you need in your daily life, Tony?

          1. No, but whinnying does.

            1. If constant exposure to Simple Mikey has taught us anything, it’s that things are true if they rhyme, so Tony the Brony checks out.

        3. Give yourself a break by not being a moron and saying something true for once.

          1. There’s a simple way to tell if what I’m complaining about is valid. How would you feel if the offender had a (D) after his name? See, easy.

            1. There’s a simple way to tell if what I’m complaining about is valid. How would you feel if the offender had a (D) after his name? See, easy.

              Politics isn’t a chess game where all the sides are equivalent. Democrats and their SCOTUS nominees have strong socialist, racist, totalitarian, and anti-Constitutional leanings; hence I feel good about them being kept out of power by any legal means.

        4. Shilling? You think we get paid for opposing jerks like you?

          And hating on the Democrats and socialist isn’t “right wing”.

    2. The ‘Mine! Mine! Mine!’ scene from Finding Nemo never gets old.

    3. Stealing and not stealing is equivalent.

      Or, government is the worst.

      1. Well, there’s that whole checks and balances thingee, if one cares about the Constitution. The Senate doesn’t have to confirm anyone. That power has been used and abused by both parties, but it’s clearly a power. I don’t even think it’s judiciable, though I don’t know for sure.

        I imagine Volokh and friends have opined on this very issue.

        1. Now, I’m pretty sure that the law defines “stealing” as “senate confirming judges in a way I don’t like.”

          And the law’s the law.

          1. Not to suggest that the Senate shouldn’t confirm or reject nominees at some point, but only the Senate makes that decision. Don’t like the results, elect different Senators, amend the Constitution, or commence with insurrection.

    4. someone pretended not to know that Mitch McConnell stole a Supreme Court seat and that this is small potatoes in his bag of evil

  8. I am disappointed that the Dem victory will yield worse sausage, but I think it’s silly to pretend that Alabama voted in protest against the GOP tax plan. Quite the opposite, I expect.

  9. “Doug Jones should be seated without delay. The people of Alabama have a right to be represented by the person they elected in this tax debate.”

    I seem to recall Pelosi holding a somewhat different opinion when O-care was being ‘debated’.

    1. Ooops.
      NAS beat me to it.

  10. OpenBordersLiberal-tarian|12.13.17 @ 2:58PM|#
    “The GOP tax bill takes money from the poor and middle class and gives it to people who are already rich. I hope Doug Jones can help defeat it.”

    This is the pathetic commie kid who took a shower and hoped the stink of supporting mass-murderers washed off.
    It hasn’t, commie kid. You still smell like shit.

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