Already under immense pressure from their largest donors to deliver on the large tax cuts they've promised for years, congressional Republicans may have to ramp up their efforts to get something passed before the Dec. 12 election and the possibility that Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore might lose his election after being accused of sexual contact with a minor.
A Moore loss at the hands of Democrat Doug Jones would weaken the GOP's already tenuous 51-49 majority in the Senate. With Jones in the Senate, the GOP could stand to lose only one vote on any particular measure, something that is quite likely, given how divided the caucus already is.
Even before the allegations, Moore was averaging a measly six-point lead in the various public opinion polls that have been released. That's a significantly weak support base considering that President Donald Trump won Alabama in 2016 by 28 percentage points. While Moore has been able to develop a hardcore following of Christian nationalists intent upon imposing their faith on others, it is relatively small, even in ruby-red Alabama.
The very real possibility that Moore might lose his race is inducing panic among the congressional GOP, according to Axios' Jonathan Swan. The leadership is reportedly considering Dec. 12 to be "the Roy Moore line." Even if he were to win the race despite the allegations, Moore's vociferous behavior and unpredictable personality would likely prove problematic for the Republican leadership's efforts.
While both Senate and House Republicans have been moving much faster by advancing their own separate bills in the hopes of speeding things along, there are a number of very significant differences between the pieces of legislation. Both bills also face the problem that the large tax cuts they propose are in excess of the $1.5 trillion that the GOP's Senate budget resolution allows them to increase the federal deficit by over 10 years.
It's uncertain how congressional Republicans will manage to overcome all of these obstacles in just a month's time, but on the other hand, both Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Paul Ryan have shown significant ability to leverage procedural tools to get legislation that they consider important.
Other political calculations are pushing the GOP to resolve its differences quickly as well. While the Republican Party's ideas about large tax cuts for corporations and high-income individuals are unpopular among Americans generally, their "supply-side" thinking is gospel among conservative activists and hardcore Republicans who are habitual voters.
While several left-of-center pundits have pronounced the tax cut rush to be politically suicidal for the GOP, it may actually be helpful for Republicans in the usually low-turnout congressional elections that will happen next year. The policies aren't likely to be helpful to President Donald Trump in 2020 but in politics, two years is a lifetime.
Even the current bills' proposals to increase the federal budget deficit could prove beneficial to the GOP, since that could be used to create a feeling of urgency to cut spending, as former Republican economist Bruce Bartlett noted:
Let's see if a bill can actually pass first.