Political winners and losers from the Trump tax-cut bill

The Republican tax plan won congressional approval on Wednesday and will soon be signed by President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions The Memo: Left pins hopes on Nina Turner in Ohio after recent defeats Biden administration to keep Trump-era rule of turning away migrants during pandemic MORE.

The law’s thicket of new provisions will affect families and businesses across the nation, in ways The Hill has previously reported upon.

But, when it comes to the politics of the bill, who notched a victory and who took a hit? 


President Trump

Trump badly needed a win on tax reform after the ignominious failure of the attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as ObamaCare. He faced the very real risk of having no major legislative achievement by the end of his first calendar year in power.


That has changed at a stroke, with Trump and his party colleagues in Congress boasting that they have delivered a Christmas present to the American people.

The overall political ramifications of the bill are not so clear. A raft of recent polls — from NBC News, CNN, Monmouth University and Quinnipiac University, among others — all suggest a plurality of Americans dislike the new law.

Still if the tax bill strengthens Trump’s claim that he deserves credit for a robust economy, that could be a substantial political asset in next year’s midterms and beyond.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans RealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Juan Williams: Biden's child tax credit is a game-changer MORE (R-Wis.)

Passage of the tax-reform bill was a huge win for Ryan for two reasons. Firstly, tax reform has been his signature issue since he rose to prominence as one of the GOP’s so-called “young guns” around the start of the decade. Secondly, plenty of people in Trump’s orbit pinned blame on Ryan for the failure of the push on health care, and this is a powerful counter to accusations that he lacks strategic skill.

Critics insist that the law could end up hurting Republicans, but there is no doubt this was a major victory for him. The exuberance with which Ryan gaveled a critical vote to a close on Tuesday showed that he knows it.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyRepublicans focus tax hike opposition on capital gains change GOP, business groups snipe at Biden restaurant remarks Top Democrat offers bill to overhaul tax break for business owners MORE (R-Texas)

On Capitol Hill, Brady was identified with the push for tax reform at least as much as Ryan. He was a tireless advocate for the effort, insisting since Republicans took hold of a unified government in January that action would happen.

Brady gave a host of media interviews defending the plan, but his behind-the-scenes actions were even more important in pushing it to the finish line.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal On The Money: Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban | Trump attorney says he will fight release of tax returns MORE (R-Ky.) 

McConnell’s relationship with Trump has been even more volatile than Ryan's. 

But he piloted the reform push through the Senate with remarkably few problems. In the end, not a single Republican in the upper chamber voted against the final plan — a stark contrast to the ObamaCare push, which was capsized by opposition from Republican Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate finalizes .2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill Schumer: Democrats 'on track' to pass bipartisan deal, .5T budget MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate Sarah Palin says she's praying about running for Senate against Murkowski Graham says he has COVID-19 'breakthrough' infection MORE (Alaska) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain to produce 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff' Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Meghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' MORE (Ariz.).

Trump tweeted on Thursday that McConnell had “done a fantastic job both strategically and politically.”

McConnell for his part, cited tax reform, the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and deregulation, when he told The Hill on Tuesday, “by any objective standard it’s been one heck of a good year for us.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)

Murkowski, a longtime advocate for energy drilling rights in her home state, got a victory with this bill. The legislation opens up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for limited drilling.

While such a move is fervently opposed by environmentalists, Murkowski insisted during a Senate floor speech on Tuesday that any new efforts would be conducted “with a care and concern for the environment.”

Murkowski also argues that the change will create significant new wealth in her home state.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Biden rallies Senate Dems behind mammoth spending plan Mnuchin dodges CNBC questions on whether Trump lying over election Democrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer MORE and chief economic adviser to President Trump, Gary Cohn

Mnuchin and Cohn were the two members of the administration most closely associated with this effort. As such, it is a validation for both. 

During the summer, there were persistent media reports that Cohn wanted to quit the White House after Trump’s deeply controversial remarks about white supremacist violence in Charlottesville. Va., but was persuaded to stay on to try to see the tax push through. 

To that extent at least, his mission has been accomplished. And on Wednesday, Cohn insisted, “I’m staying” at the White House. 




The opposition party could yet have the last laugh, if the tax measure remains as unpopular as polls suggest. 

But the primary goal of any opposition is to prevent things that it regards as harmful from getting done. To that extent, the Democrats failed here, in part because — despite its apparent unpopularity — the effort to derail the GOP tax plan did not attract such visceral or vocal opposition as the push to get rid of the ACA.

The Democrats can fairly counter that they simply don’t have the votes to stop Republican measures unless some in the GOP cross the aisle. But they were able to persuade three senators to do just that on health care, and failed to do so this time.

Former President Obama 

The ACA is Obama’s signature achievement and it survived the full-frontal assault earlier this year. 

But it will be seriously undermined by the passage of tax reform, since the legislation does away with the mandate that is so central to the ACA’s funding. 

The measure may save the government money, since it will have fewer people’s health care to subsidize, but by some estimates 13 million more people could end up without health coverage. That will also raise premiums overall, and raise the risk of ObamaCare facing the dreaded “death spiral.”

It’s entirely possible that the worst projections could prove overdone. But this is a big blow.

Deficit hawks

The GOP’s purported aversion to increasing the deficit — a clarion call during Obama’s eight years in office — was oddly muted with Trump in the White House. 

Even if the individual tax cuts in the legislation are not renewed — and Ryan, among others, has suggested they will be— the bill will add around $1.4 trillion to the deficit over a decade. 

Republicans say the bill will spark enough growth to bring down that cost — but, by most estimates, the best possible outcome is a deficit increase of around $1 trillion. If the personal tax cuts are made permanent, it could spiral to double that amount. 

Blue-state Republicans

A dozen Republicans bucked the party line on what they thought was the final House vote on the bill — a revote had to be taken later for procedural reasons — and there is no secret about why. 

The lawmakers in question were all from New York, New Jersey or California, three of the states that will likely be hit hardest by the capping of deductions for state and local taxes at $10,000.

Rep. Pete KingPeter (Pete) KingNewsmax anchor Greg Kelly to host New York radio show Top GOP lawmakers call for Swalwell to be removed from Intelligence Committee Republican Garbarino wins election to replace retiring Rep. Pete King MORE (R-N.Y.), one of those "no" votes, said last month that an earlier version of the plan would mean that hard-working people “get screwed.”

Republicans from all of the three states will have some explaining to do to their constituents, regardless of how they personally voted.

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Tenn.)

Corker, who has emerged as a strident critic of the president in recent months, surprised many people on Capitol Hill when he announced he would support the bill. Corker had voted against a previous version because of concern that it would add substantially to the deficit. He had pushed, unsuccessfully, for revenue-raising measures to be added. He had told Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he was not going to be “OK with” any plan “adding one penny to the deficit.”

Corker’s late conversion to the bill spurred accusations — which he adamantly denies — that he had been bought off by a late change that would make it easier for real estate interests to take advantage of lower “pass-through” tax rates. Corker told The New York Times that the accusation was “disheartening,” adding, “There’s nothing to buy me off with.”

Still, Corker’s late switch undercut the idea of him as a dissenting voice of principle. 

The difficulty was deepened by a strange and contentious interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday. Corker sardonically praised Blitzer for “having a great time with this interview” when the CNN anchor pressed him on the reversal of his position. “It’s your responsibility to answer these questions,” Blitzer shot back.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)

Collins won some amendments on the tax bill preserving certain breaks, but the bigger issue for her was the promise of action to stabilize the Affordable Care Act.

Pence and McConnell promised Collins that they would include the ObamaCare measures in a spending bill to be passed by Congress before the new year, but on Thursday it became clear that wouldn’t happen.

As a result, Collins ended up backing the tax bill on a promise that, at least so far, hasn’t been delivered by her party’s leaders. It’s also a bill that repeals ObamaCare’s individual mandate, a fact that makes worse the failure of Collins to win funds meant to stabilize premiums.

Collins on Thursday said she wasn’t worried, and despite strong opposition to the ObamaCare language among House conservatives, it’s possible her demands will be met in January when Congress again must vote to fund the government.

In a joint statement with Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderAuthorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE (R-Tenn.), she said that she had asked McConnell to hold off on trying to move the ObamaCare-related bill this week because it has “become clear that Congress will only be able to pass another short-term extension to prevent a government shutdown and to continue a few essential programs.”

That Collins is set to leave the Senate for Christmas without her promised gifts means she is a loser for now on the tax bill.

If the promises are kept in January, however, she’d be a winner in the end.