It does not come as a surprise that House Republicans passed the Trump tax cuts. It is surprising that 227 of them voted for a bill that needed only 217 votes to pass. That is, ten House Republicans who could have voted no, and still allowed the bill to pass, declared their affirmation nonetheless. It is the latest piece of evidence of the party’s utter blindness to the political dangers the legislation poses for them.
Given the shape of the current national landscape, with President Trump’s approval rating below 40 percent, Democrats energized, and a midterm wave forming, you would think vulnerable Republicans would seize every opportunity to distance themselves from their toxic party brand. They have taken few such steps.
And the Trump tax cuts are especially unpopular. The public opposes the bill by a wide margin, and sees it as a giveaway to the rich. It is also filled with specific measures that feel like they were reverse-engineered from attack ads — new taxes that will harm veterans, the disabled, the very sick. Democrats have little illusion about the politics of this bill, which is why none of them, not even members from red districts, voted yes.
It’s understandable that Republicans would want to spend their political capital to pass a bill like this. Regressive tax cuts are the core element of party doctrine. They have even persuaded themselves that passing this bill will help their party as a whole, on the grounds that they need to show they can get things done. (Voters don’t usually reward parties for getting highly unpopular things done.)
But even if it is true that the Republican Party as a whole benefits from passing the Trump tax cuts, it hardly follows that individual Republican members of Congress benefit from casting a yes vote. If there is a broader benefit to all Republicans from the aura of legislative success, they could bask in it even if they voted no. If their donors didn’t like it, they could pull them aside and explain that they were ready to cast a yes vote if needed.
Instead they went out of their way to associate themselves with a bill that’s polling at 25 percent. They’re just delusional about it.