After more than six months of deference to President Trump, congressional Republicans are showing signs of chafing and nods toward independence. “Congressional fear is low,” The New York Times reports. “Eyes are rolling with greater velocity. Executive instructions on how to proceed are being ignored as a matter of course.” And so, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) laid out the Senate’s plans for the fall on Tuesday, he did not mention dredging back up health-care legislation, despite goading from Trump and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney to return to ObamaCare repeal legislation before taking another vote. Instead, the plan is to move on to an overhaul of the tax code.
“It’s pretty obvious that our problem on health care was not the Democrats,” McConnell told reporters. “We didn’t have 50 Republicans.” But he also made clear that he plans to adopt the same GOP-only tactics with tax reform that he did with health care, icing Democrats out of the process.
“We will need to use reconciliation” for taxes, McConnell said, because 45 Democrats had sent him a letter informing him “that most of the principles that would get the country going again, they’re not interested in addressing.” The 45 Democrats had said they would not support a tax bill that raises the deficit or cuts the tax bills of the wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers, and opposed using the filibuster-proof reconciliation process. Less than an hour before McConnell spoke, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who heads the Senate tax-writing committee, had said on the Senate floor that he planned to work closely with Democrats on the tax bill, hold public hearings, and employ other traditional means of passing major legislation.
Some analysts predicted that Republicans wouldn’t be able to pass tax reform this year, if ever, given their full calendar this fall. First off, to use the reconciliation process, Congress first needs to pass a budget resolution. More pressing, lawmakers have to pass legislation to fund the government before Oct. 1 or trigger a government shutdown, and they need to raise the debt ceiling by Sept. 29 to avoid a calamitous federal default. “The Senate and House are scheduled to be in session together for a total of just 12 days from now until the debt ceiling deadline, giving them little time to focus on tax cuts,” The Washington Post notes. The last time Congress overhauled the tax code was in 1986. Peter Weber