Republicans Turn To Taxes After Alabama Defeat
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Now, the plan was for President Trump to make his way to Camp David for the weekend, for Vice President Pence to go to Israel. One trip was hampered by weather, the other by taxes. The veep is staying stateside because the tax vote in the Senate looked close. But as NPR's Ron Elving is about to tell us, Republicans may now have the votes in hand. Good morning, Ron.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: And we got the details of the tax plan last night. It's a compromise, obviously, reconciliation - they call it - between the House and Senate versions. The Senate proved to be the bigger hurdle for the party, didn't it?
ELVING: Yes. In fact, by far. And that's why the Senate's version of this tax bill largely prevailed in the negotiations with the House over the last few weeks. Before those began, the Senate vote was just a bare majority before they had that big sit-down with the other chamber. And there were several Republican senators on the fence about it, even as yesterday morning dawned. That would include Bob Corker of Tennessee, Marco Rubio of Florida, Susan Collins of Maine.
But now Corker and Rubio are fully on board. Rubio got some more money for the child tax credit. And Bob Corker was objecting to the deficit increase, which is kind of still there, but he says it won't be, maybe, that bad. And he is, of course, a good Republican and a businessman. And he has to like a lot of what's in this bill.
SIMON: Is this the bill Republicans feel they need to say that they can govern when they have control of the Senate, the House and the presidency?
ELVING: Indeed. It shows that they can pass a big and complicated piece of legislation that they promised to pass and do it with just their own majorities in both the House and the Senate. It should satisfy the hardcore support base and the donor class that has been growing restive in recent months since the Obamacare repeal failure. And, of course, the jury is out on how many other people it's going to satisfy, including the wage-earners who voted for Donald Trump last year, believing he would be their champion.
SIMON: Well, right now the bill doesn't look popular among the American public. We have - polls from Gallup and Quinnipiac found support at just 29 percent. Is that a warning for Republicans who have to run for re-election and, for that matter, political opportunity for Democrats?
ELVING: It would seem to be both, especially given the heavy benefits that the bill does give to corporations and the wealthy, who indeed get most of the tax cut value, especially considering that the corporation cuts are going to be made permanent, and the individual cuts are going to phase out after several years around about 2025, which would theoretically be just after the end of President Trump's second term. So the populist shoe may be on the other partisan foot in 2018. The question is...
SIMON: Can you walk that way? (Laughter) I'm just trying to figure out that metaphor, Ron. But go ahead, yes.
ELVING: Well, I was just about to say, is that enough for the Democrats to run on?
ELVING: So if the tax cuts are at least visible to most Americans, then we don't really expect them to storm the Capitol with torches if somebody else is getting a larger tax cut. But watch what comes next. House Speaker Paul Ryan says they're going to reform entitlements, and that translates to meaning they're going to cut back on Medicare, Medicaid, possibly go after Social Security. And that's where people drew the line on Ronald Reagan's spending cuts and George W. Bush's spending cuts. So we'll be waiting to see if it's different this time.
SIMON: And the Alabama Senate race - Doug Jones will be the first Democratic senator from Alabama in a generation - 25 years. He defeated Roy Moore - I think the most controversial major party candidate for senator since David Duke - after several women came forward to say that Roy Moore had sexually harassed or assaulted them as teenagers. A few days have passed since the vote. What do you make of the result?
ELVING: First, it was a big victory for African-American voters in Alabama. They turned out in Obama election-like numbers, and they made the difference. This election has probably been overdrawn a bit as a repudiation of Trumpism - the turning of the Trumpian tide in national politics, as you know.
It probably had more to do with Moore - Roy Moore - and his unique trainload of baggage. But it's still hard not to compare it to what happened back in 2010 when Scott Brown was elected in Massachusetts, taking Teddy Kennedy's seat. And this was at about the same point in President Obama's first term.
That really changed the mood on Capitol Hill. It did not stop the passage of Obamacare, but it signaled a big turnover in Congress in the next elections. And we could be heading into a correction here in the other direction under President Trump.
SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving. Thanks so much.
ELVING: Thank you, Scott.
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