Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., says Democrats won't even consider working with President Trump on tax reform unless the president releases his tax returns. Schumer says we can't trust that Trump's tax proposals are designed to benefit us, rather than him, unless we see his taxes.
That's probably not true on three levels. Trump's tax returns would not tell us whether his policies are designed to benefit him at our expense. Kowtowing to Democrats on this offers no assurance of success on tax reform. And Democrats are unlikely to help the president under any circumstances, because their goal is to make him not a one-term president but a two-year president.
They don't want to work with him on any major legislative proposal. They want to build on their cases against him, stall his initiatives with endless investigations, and use whatever they can to fundraise against him. Their goal is not tax reform, it's to win back the House in 2018, so Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., can then file articles of impeachment on a weekly basis.
But regardless of all this, Trump needs to find a way to get tax reform across the finish line by the end of 2017. He ran as a jobs president, and tax reform on both the corporate and individual sides is essential to restarting the economy. The window to win cooperation from either side of the aisle will start to close when the calendar turns to 2018 and members start worrying about their own electoral survival.
The fate of his entire administration could hang in the balance. Generally, the first year is seen as the year presidents put their stamps on the country, the economy and the state of play in Washington. For most presidents, if their agenda is to be enacted, there must be significant legislative advances toward those goals in the first year.
To that end, if Republicans in Congress can't achieve consensus on Obamacare repeal in fairly short order, they should abandon that effort and focus on tax reform. Obamacare can be revisited in 2018 and perhaps, if premiums continue to skyrocket and insurers continue to abandon the exchanges, on far more favorable terms to conservatives.
And on tax reform, congressional Republicans already are within shouting distance of an agreement. Some want to start with corporate tax reform, then pursue additional legislation to lower taxes for individuals. Others think Republicans should tackle the whole enterprise at once. Either way, the legislation must be deficit-neutral so it can be passed as part of budget reconciliation, which requires only 51 votes, which means it can pass the Senate with no cooperation from Democrats.
What Republicans in Congress need to remember are two things.
First, 73 percent of registered voters want to see tax reform happen this year (including 75 percent of independents), which greatly outweighs the public's current appetite for repealing and replacing Obamacare. Second, Republicans' ability to hold on to control of the House and gain seats in the Senate will mirror Trump's standing with voters.
And it doesn't look good if the president who ran on the economy cannot get his jobs bill through Congress.
Ford O'Connell (@FordOConnell) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is an adjunct professor at The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, worked on John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, and authored the book "Hail Mary: The 10-Step Playbook for Republican Recovery."
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