Ceiling and dealing

The most optimistic among Republicans are anxious for September’s arrival, believing their efforts to bring about tax reform and personal and business tax cuts will succeed where similar heavy lifting to repeal and replace Obamacare failed.

Obamacare had become an entrenched entitlement in very short order, leaving many Republicans talking out of both sides of their mouths. GOP lawmakers showed little to no spine when it came time to act. In the case of tax reform, they are likely to hear from throngs of constituents who feel strongly that swift and significant cuts and simplifications are long overdue. Repealing Obamacare carried the threat that some would “lose” healthcare coverage (albeit unaffordable coverage). Tax cuts are about meaningful gains for ordinary working Americans, not loss.

Some Republicans are even pushing the idea of income tax reductions that will be retroactive to January 2017, as reported by The Hill:

The House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance committees are weighing the issue as they write legislation that can be introduced after the August recess.

By all accounts, momentum should be building toward a historic legislative tax reform bill, the most consequential in three decades. But there is a parallel issue that will arise after the recess that could turn out to be a momentum killer.

Richard Hudson photoIt comes to our attention via North Carolina Congressman Richard Hudson’s weekly email newsletter. Rep. Hudson (NC-8) headlined his digital missive, “We Must Act Now”. One might assume Hudson would have been referring to tax reform. He was not:

As your Congressman, I stand by my word that I won’t support a debt ceiling increase without spending cuts or substantial, cost-saving reforms. I agree we need to pay our bills, but raising the debt limit without fundamentally reforming government and addressing the events that brought us to the risk of default isn’t paying our bills – it’s asking foreign countries to pay them for us.

Hudson’s focus when he returns to Washington apparently will be how to manage debt ceiling politics. And make no mistake, the debt ceiling exists for no other reason than to fuel political gamesmanship. Republicans don’t play the game well, unfortunately, always yielding to raising the ceiling lest they be blamed for a “government shutdown” that denies children access to parks, military veterans access to monuments, retirees access to Social Security payments, and so on.

Writing for American Thinker, Rick Moran forecasts a dire scenario:

Democrats will not bail Republicans out of this mess – and a mess it is almost certain to be.  If you thought Obamacare repeal was a debacle, wait until the factions start lining up to support or oppose a debt ceiling increase.  As for Democrats, they are likely to pop some popcorn, sit back, and be entertained by the GOP tying itself in knots over the increase.  It won’t be a pretty picture.

House Speaker Paul Ryan already has begun to express his enthusiasm for making big strides on tax reform in recent social media posts. And, as with Obamacare, the first steps toward cuts and reform will begin in the House under Ryan’s leadership. Yet, it is worrisome that tax reform was not referenced by Rep. Hudson until the eighth paragraph of a 10-paragraph email.

In addition, I’m also working to advance comprehensive tax reform. … I support reform based around the concepts of simplicity, efficiency and equitability. … We need to lower the corporate tax rate to promote job creation, increase wages, and eliminate harmful loopholes and special interests.

Everything Hudson espouses is right on target, precisely what voters were salivating for when they handed Republicans control of Congress and the White House. But with so little time remaining in 2017 to get major things done — 12 working days to inevitably raise the debt ceiling after the recess — GOP lawmakers must demonstrate they can pursue their objectives on dual tracks.

If instead they spend the fall banging their heads against walls over ceiling politics, the bottom will drop out of their support and the free fall to 2018 election consequences will begin.



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