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GOP revels in fast start for Trump tax law

Republicans are receiving a spate of good news in the wake of their tax-cut bill becoming law.

A number of companies have announced bonuses, wage increases and new investments since the law’s enactment. And polls have found an uptick in support for the measure, though it still falls short of widespread approval. 

GOP lawmakers and strategists see vindication in those developments, calling it early proof that the tax law will grow more popular over time and boost the party in the midterm elections.

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“Tax reform is working. It really is,” Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanElection 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 Will the Federal Reserve make a mistake by shifting to inflation? Sanders: Democrats ‘absolutely’ have chance to win back rural America  MORE (R-Wis.) said Thursday at the beginning of his weekly press conference. “It’s working for families. It’s working for businesses. Tax reform is working for our economy.” 

Republicans are hopeful that the government shutdown that began Saturday won’t thwart their momentum, arguing the blame for the closure falls squarely on the Democrats for blocking a short-term funding bill on Friday evening.  

The new tax law, which President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report Trump to nominate former Monsanto exec to top Interior position White House aides hadn’t heard of Trump's new tax cut: report MORE signed in December, temporarily cuts individual tax rates across the board and permanently slashes the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center has estimated that about 80 percent of taxpayers would see a tax cut in 2018 under the new law. 

While the tax overhaul was making its way through Congress, Democrats attacked it as a “scam” that would raise many Americans’ taxes and largely benefit the wealthy.

But recent polls show that approval of the GOP’s plan is growing and that an increasing number of people think that their taxes are going to go down.

A SurveyMonkey poll conducted for The New York Times found that approval of the plan increased by 9 percentage points from December to January, and that the percentage of people who say they expect a tax cut grew from 33 to 41 percent. Other polls from Quinnipiac and Marist found similar trends.

Since Congress passed the tax law, numerous businesses have said they plan to give workers bonuses, hike their minimum wages, make new investments in the United States or take some combination of these actions. The companies that have made such announcements include Comcast, Walmart and Apple.  

In a speech in Pennsylvania, Trump said he called Apple CEO Tim Cook to thank him.

“When we began our push for tax cuts, I promised that our bill would result in more jobs, higher wages and tremendous relief for middle-class families, and that is exactly what we have delivered,” the president said. 

Republicans say the improving sentiment over the law and the business announcements will help them in the midterms. They think Democrats will have to pay a price for opposing the law, as not a single member of their party voted for it. 

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Some ObamaCare premiums to decrease next year | Sanders hits back at Trump over 'Medicare for all' | Panel to investigate rising maternal mortality rates House committee to investigate rising maternal mortality rates How the Trump tax law passed: The final stretch MORE (R-Texas) said that as taxpayers see the benefits of the new law, they will “want to stick with the party that is getting America out of the old Obama, struggling, stagnant economy.” 

The GOP could see even more of a boost in support for the tax law next month, when people start to see more money in their paychecks due to a decrease in the amount that’s withheld for taxes. More hiring and investment announcements from businesses could follow.

“It’s not just that there’s good news, but there are going to be so many reminders of the good news,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. 

The legislative victory could help give vulnerable GOP lawmakers an accomplishment to tout, taking some of the focus off Trump and the controversies that constantly swirl around him.

Jon McHenry, vice president of the GOP polling firm North Star Opinion Research, said the tax law “gives them something to say, we’re not just the party of Donald Trump’s tweets.”

Still, it’s far from smooth sailing for Republicans in the midterm elections.

Despite the strong economy, Trump’s approval rating remains low. Democrats, meanwhile, have a big advantage in the polls and have racked up several unlikely victories recently, including a Senate seat in Alabama.

History is also stacked against the GOP, as the president’s party typically loses seats in the first midterm elections after winning the White House.

GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said that Republicans need public approval of the tax bill to improve quicker if the party is going to reap the benefits in November.

Endangered members have to make the case that “substance matters more than style when it comes to Trump,” he said.

There are also a number of other issues that could overshadow any positive news stemming from the tax bill.

“It’s not like people are just going to vote what they feel about the tax bill at the end of the day,” McHenry said. 

Democrats similarly argue that other issues will take precedence over the tax law in voters’ minds. They expect issues such as health care and voter opposition to Trump will be more at the forefront. 

“We have an atmosphere of complete havoc and crisis that is completely unnecessary and that is not going to change,” said Democratic strategist Craig Varoga.

Additionally, Democrats still think that their criticisms of the tax law resonate with voters. They said that many Americans are still opposed to tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations. 

“In terms of designing an ad to attack this thing, it’s almost too easy,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) said that with the tax law, “we borrowed against the future of America to pay for tax cuts today” for the wealthiest Americans.

Democrats have also argued that many of the businesses announcements after the new law passed are not always what they seem.

They note that bonuses are a one-time benefit and pointed out that Walmart closed Sam’s Club stores on the same day that it announced its new minimum wage and benefits for workers.

“In the long run, this still remains a tax cut for the wealthy, and people still hate the idea of a taxpayer-funded giveaway to corporations at their expense,” said Tim Hogan, spokesman for the liberal Not One Penny campaign that is pushing back against the new law.