Typically, the majority party in Congress will take pains to shield their most vulnerable members from difficult votes: If advancing major legislation requires goring someone’s ox, best to have your most secure incumbents make that sacrifice, not the ones who are clinging to their seats by their fingernails.
But the Trump-era GOP has done the opposite. When Paul Ryan unveiled his Obamacare-repeal bill, moderate Republicans from districts Hillary Clinton won demanded more protections for people with preexisting conditions and fewer spending cuts. Politically secure tea-partyers from deep red districts, meanwhile, demanded less of the former, and more of the latter.
Public opinion was on the moderates’ side — and “indivisible” protesters were beating down their doors. And yet, Ryan sided with the Freedom Caucus, added a provisions that would jeopardize nonaffluent cancer patients’ access to basic medical care, and coerced several blue state Republicans into backing the least popular piece of major legislation in American history.
Now, with their tax bill, Republicans have found a way to hammer their at-risk House members even harder. Twenty-three House Republicans represent districts that went for Clinton. The bulk of these are heavily upper-middle-class suburbs in high-income states.
So, of course, Senate Republicans decided that the party’s signature policy going into the 2018 midterms should be a tax “reform” plan that pays for deeply unpopular corporate cuts by raising taxes on upper-middle-class households in high-income states.
Overall, about a third of households earning between $100,000 and $500,000 a year lose out under the GOP plan.
But because the plan eliminates the state and local tax deduction, that third is heavily concentrated in high-income (blue) states — which is to say, in the places where vulnerable Republicans will desperately need upper-middle-class support next year.
Republicans are constantly saying that they need to pass their tax plan in order to retain control of Congress next year. But when one looks at what their plan would actually do, it’s hard not to reach the opposite conclusion.