As pundits sift through the wreckage that is the GOP alternative to Obamacare, the president now turns to tax reform. Some within the administration also hint that they’ll seek Democratic votes this time to smooth the process.
“This president is not going to be a partisan president,” Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said over weekend. “It’s time for our folks to come together. I also think it’s time to potentially get a few moderate Democrats on board, as well.”
The sentiment is encouraging and also intellectually consistent. A primary Republican criticism of Barack Obama’s health care legislation is that Democrats rammed the measure through Congress on a procedural technicality without any GOP support. Yet Republican congressional leaders were on the verge of doing the same thing before failing to generate enough votes in their push to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Unfortunately, the Beltway political climate reeks of dangerous toxins. Expect a considerable number of Democrats in both houses to oppose the entire Trump agenda regardless of the details. Mr. Priebus and the president could start, however, by extending a hand to the 10 or so vulnerable Senate Democrats who face re-election in 2018 and hail from states Mr. Trump carried last year.
There is, in fact, some common ground between the parties on tax reform, particularly when it comes to reforming corporate rates to spur domestic investment. But the notion that passing an overhaul of the tax code will be easier than replacing the Obamacare entitlement is removed from reality.
“They may be heading right into another minefield,” wrote Wall Street Journal reporter Richard Rubin on Monday. “The party’s failure on health care — after having seven years to prepare — shows how hard it is for Republicans to write complex legislation that attracts support from their moderate and conservative wings.”
Perhaps the president’s first effort to enact major legislation was an educational exercise. We’ll soon find out. In addition, the GOP may have one advantage when it comes to tax reform. While Americans were fairly divided on the issue of Obamacare, polls show a large majority of voters favor tax relief and believe the IRS code is too complex and in need of repair. A 2013 Pew Research Center survey found support for revamping the nation’s tax laws had increased significantly over the past decade, even among Democrats.
If the Trump administration and congressional Republicans can tap into that sentiment and take a more measured approach to implementing tax reform, they will have successfully moved past the health-care debacle.