November 27, 2017
By Robert Kuttner | Dec 18, 2017
The press coverage has played the tax bill as a steep climb for the Republicans, but we should also pay attention to a possible GOP secret weapon—wavering Democrats. Three Democrats facing re-election in states that Trump carried by large margins have yet to commit firmly against the bill. They would be Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.
Ever since the first of the Reagan “supply side” tax cuts, Republicans have been able to enlist some conservative Democratic support, including for all of the Bush II tax cuts. Centrist Dems love finding votes that they can characterize as pro-business.
At least six Senate Republicans have expressed qualms about aspects of the tax measure, including its backdoor attempt to gut the Affordable Care Act, its early phase-out of cuts for individuals, and its increase in the national debt by an estimated $1.4 trillion according to the Congressional Joint Tax Committee.
But never underestimate the ability of Mitch McConnell to make special deals to win over this or that skeptical Republican. So far, no Republican senator has definitively shut the door on supporting some tax bill, not even deficit hawks like Wisconsin’s Tom Johnson or the much-overrated “moderates,” Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.
Giving up the idea of using tax legislation to kill Obamacare may yet rescue this bill. McConnell will lose some Republican senators—the path to a majority is narrow at best—but it would be a travesty indeed if a tax bill were to squeak through thanks to the support of faithless Democrats.