As we approach the midterm elections McMorris Rodgers (and the Republican/Libertarians in general) are firing up the machinery for some serious backfilling.
On September 28, while the entire nation (and quite a lot of the rest of the world) was glued to the spectacle of the Kavanaugh hearings, McMorris Rodgers and her ilk in the House of Representatives quietly passed a bill, H.R. 6760: Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act of 2018. The Republican Policy Committee’s summary of the bill states: “H.R. 6760 would make permanent the tax provisions for individuals and pass-through entities in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that otherwise be [sic] sunset after 2025…” There is no mention this would add to the budget deficit and there is no discussion of an offset. (See the P.S. below.)
With H.R. 6760 the Republicans are trying to establish plausible deniability for a grievous error of their own making with H.R. 1, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” in December 2017. They are trying hard to backfill a hole they dug for themselves. Let me explain.
McMorris Rodgers and her Republican colleagues were really excited over their partisan success in ramming the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” through the U.S. Senate. To do so they used a legislative loophole to avoid needing to compromise with Democrats. Trump was delighted to sign it. McMorris Rodgers immediately began talking up her accomplishment at every opportunity with the words, “Money in your pocket.” The trouble is, the money that was supposed to appear in “your” pocket was only about 20% of more than a trillion dollars the Act is expected to add to the federal deficit in the next ten years. The other 80% went to to corporations and the already wealthy. Worse, the Republicans started talking to their base about how the deficit (which they just exploded) was going to require them to “tackle entitlements,” i.e. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. This has not played well to a angry electorate—and it shouldn’t.
There was another glaring flaw in the Act. Belatedly, the Republican leadership (including McMorris Rodgers) has realized their disingenuous “Money in your Pocket” sales job convinced almost no one outside their loyal base. Worse, they realized they were nakedly vulnerable on another point. In their haste to get the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed (while completely shutting out Democrats from the deliberations) they had to use the “budget reconciliation” loophole to avoid a filibuster in the Senate. Using budget reconciliation required they balance the numbers. They chose to do so by making the corporate tax cuts permanent while letting the individual “money in your pocket” provisions (for the common folk) expire in seven years. Their corporate donors wouldn’t stand for the “uncertainty” of having it the other way around. “Uncertainty,” after all, is bad for business…
Here’s the twist: It turns out it’s pretty hard to convince Americans you’re being fair when you hand a huge permanent benefit to corporations and a temporary pittance to the common folk, the “money in your pocket” people. I recall Republican talk at the time suggesting this expiring benefit was really no problem, since they had backed Democrats into a corner where later they could be forced to vote to rescue the common folk before their meager tax benefit expired. That pissed me off at the time and still does. They were saying, “We’ve got the power. You have to dance to our tune. We don’t need to even consider your viewpoint as we blow up the deficit to pay off our donors. We can count on you weak, lily-livered Democrats to vote with us to save your vulnerable constituents from the law we crammed down your throats.”
Now they are having second thoughts, so while we were all distracted by the Kavanaugh spectacle the House Republicans cynically passed H.R. 6760: Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act of 2018 on a party line vote (all WA Republican representatives voted for it, all Democrats against). In so doing the Republicans are counting on the ignorance and distraction of the electorate. The bill has zero chance of passing the Senate before the close of this “115th Congress” at year’s end. It is not a “budget reconciliation” bill, so it would require sixty votes to avoid a filibuster. On top of that, if made law, it would further explode the deficit. (Remember when the Republicans preached “fiscal responsibility”??)
I guarantee McMorris Rodgers will be singing to her base about her vote on this bill. You can bet she will blame Democrats for not joining her in voting for a bogus solution to the problem of her own making. She will trot out this doomed bill as a debating point, “I voted to make the tax cuts permanent for the workers of eastern Washington.” I can hear it now. She’s counting on voters to forget it was she who made it a problem in the first place. Don’t let her get away with it.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. The text of H.R. 6760 specifically states in its full text in Sec. 301 (the very last lines of the Bill) “The budgetary effects of this Act shall not be entered on either PAYGO scorecard.” I read that as legalese stating the Republicans want to make sure that no one takes notice of the fact by passing this measure they are further exploding the deficit. How cynical is that?
P.P.S. I find it a bit odd to note that at govtrack.us one is presented with a two summaries of this H.R. 6760, one from the Republican Policy Committee and one from the Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan division of the Library of Congress. Are the Republican/Libertarians so partisan they have to publish their own spin on this bill? Is the non-partisan CRS Summary somehow not good enough?