Gaming the odds of any GOP tax bill getting signed into law

Gaming the odds of any GOP tax bill getting signed into law
© Getty

What are the odds that this new GOP Tax Bill – called The Tax Cut and Jobs Act – passes and is signed into law? Let us go through the political calculations and make a series of estimates:

1. This particular bill itself — as announced last week — will not be passed — ever.

2. But that is normal;

3. It will be changed, tweaked, altered, bargained over and negotiated into a different bill;

4. That is also normal — so expect that to happen;

5. This analysis is not interested in any particular clause, provision, amendment or rider; there will be endless talk in the next two weeks of the deductibility of state and local taxes, 401(k)’s, tax brackets, rates etc.;

6. Instead, this analysis is only of the likelihood of any tax bill becoming law;

7. Speaker Ryan continues to express confidence that a bill — whatever it is or will be — will be passed by Thanksgiving. That is just 16 days from now.

8. An army of lobbyists is currently swamping the House trying to get certain provisions of this bill changed. They will succeed but the current bill will still exist in some form;

9. The politics of 2018 and the disastrous first year of a Republican-controlled Congress dictate that the House GOP pass something and, for that reason, they will pass it close to — just before or immediately after — Thanksgiving;

10. The polling on this bill — as it was on the ObamaCare Repeal bill — will increasingly decline. The GOP tax bill will be seen as “favoring Big Corporations and the rich” and “not helping the middle class;” and this toxicity will cause some GOP House Members to shy away from this bill;

11. This GOP bill will rival the ObamaCare repeal for closeness in the vote; just a few votes will separate passage and defeat but the GOP House (with all Dems voting “No”) will indeed pass a tax Bill;

12. The odds? I put it at an 85 percent likelihood of passage;

13. And then the real gambling begins — in the Senate;

14. The House bill will go over to the Senate in early December and the process begins anew;

15. But in early December both the House and Senate will also be consumed by a continuing resolution and/or the 2018 fiscal year budget, the debt ceiling, DACA, and maybe a discussion of funding the border wall;

16. The president will exert tremendous pressure to get him a tax bill to sign before Christmas as a Christmas present to the American people;

17. To President Trump, the contents of this bill matter little — just as the contents of the summer’s failed health care repeal were of no interest to him. He just wanted the ceremony of signing something – and proclaiming “a win!”

18. However, it is not just the contents of a tax bill that will make a Senate vote a nail-biter;

19. We all know the math: All 48 Democrats (46 plus two Independents who caucus with the Dems) will vote No; of the 52 GOP Senators, the Republicans can only lose two;

20. Sounds like the ObamaCare Repeal vote, doesn’t it?


22. And No;

23. Since Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump: 'You know what I am? I'm a nationalist' Graham on Saudi Arabia: 'I feel completely betrayed' Meghan McCain calls Russian attacks against her father the 'highest compliment' to her family MORE’s (R-Ariz.) thumbs-down vote on July 28th, the GOP Senate Conference has changed — a lot: Senators Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCongress raises pressure on Saudi Arabia GOP-affiliated voters outperforming Democrats in key states’ early voting: report The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump says he is cutting foreign aid over caravan | Lawmakers point fingers at Saudi crown prince | DNC chair downplays 'blue wave' talk MORE (R-Tenn.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCongress raises pressure on Saudi Arabia Flake says he and his family got death threats 'from the right' Trump boosts McSally, bashes Sinema in Arizona MORE (R-Ariz.) — both of whom voted for the ObamaCare repeal — have announced that they are not running for reelection and have subsequently been involved in nasty personal exchanges with Trump;

24. Plus, Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulPaul to Saudi government: 'It takes a lot of damn gall' to lecture US Congress raises pressure on Saudi Arabia The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump says he is cutting foreign aid over caravan | Lawmakers point fingers at Saudi crown prince | DNC chair downplays 'blue wave' talk MORE (R-Ky.) has expressed doubts about the bill, as he always does;

25. And McCain is still expressing anti-Trump sentiments;

26. And we haven’t heard from Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsManchin wrestles with progressive backlash in West Virginia Conservatives bankrolled and dominated Kavanaugh confirmation media campaign The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiPoll: Palin unpopular in Alaska following jab at Murkowski Conservatives bankrolled and dominated Kavanaugh confirmation media campaign Ex-Florida lawmaker leaves Republican Party MORE (R-Alaska);

27. Meanwhile, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has declared war from the Right on all GOP “establishment” senators, angering Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellElection Countdown: Takeaways from heated Florida governor's debate | DNC chief pushes back on 'blue wave' talk | Manchin faces progressive backlash | Trump heads to Houston rally | Obama in Las Vegas | Signs of huge midterm turnout Sanders: Democrats ‘absolutely’ have chance to win back rural America  Trump privately ready to blame Ryan and McConnell if Republicans lose midterms: report MORE (R-Ky.) and shaking many of Bannon’s targets;

28. Thus the math becomes even more difficult;

29. As of today, I put the odds at 50-50 that the Senate passes any tax bill;

30. And that bill will be substantially different than the House bill, thus requiring a conference committee and thus a re-vote in both houses;

31. So, ultimately, the odds are against anything getting final approval before Christmas;

32. And after Christmas?

33. As of today, it’s 51-49 in favor of something eventually passing.

34. Why? Because the GOP knows another massive, epic failure spells the near-certain loss of the House in 2018.

35. For that reason alone they will pass something — never mind how unpopular;

36. And then they will probably still lose the House in November.

John LeBoutillier is a former Republican congressman from New York and is co-host of "Revolution — The Podcast," available on Soundcloud and iTunes.