The Republican Party may be determined to pass a tax reform bill so that President Donald Trump can claim a legislative win. But if they succeed in that goal, they could make their own political lives much harder in 2018.
Thirty-two percent of Americans support the Republican tax bill, while 48 percent oppose it, according to a USA Today/Suffolk University Poll. This means that, if it becomes law, the Republican tax reform bill will be the most unpopular major legislation passed in the United States in roughly 30 years. It will even surpass the unpopularity of President Barack Obama's signature law, the Affordable Care Act.
Part of the problem is that Americans don't buy the Republicans' spin about how the bill will supposedly help them. Fifty-three percent said that the bill would not lower the tax bills for their own families. Another 53 percent said that the legislation would not help the economy in any way.
One explanation for why Republicans have continued to push for the tax reform bill despite its broader unpopularity: Among their own voters, it remains quite popular.
Seventy-six percent of Republicans approve of the bill and only 13 percent disapprove of it, according to a CBS News poll. By contrast, only 7 percent of Democrats and only 33 percent of independents approve of the bill, while 84 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents disapprove of it. Overall, the poll found that 35 percent of Americans support the bill and 53 percent do not support it.
One consequence of the bill's poor standing among voters is that more moderate Republicans have begun wavering in their support for the measure. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told CNN on Thursday that if the bill does not contain provisions to protect the interests of middle-class families, "I would (consider changing my vote). I'm going to look at what comes out of the conference committee meeting to reconcile the differences between the Senate and House bill. So I won't make a final decision until I see what that package is."
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Ala., expressed her own reservations, specifically about the bill's repeal of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate.
"If the Congress is going to move forward with repeal of the individual mandate, we absolutely must have the Alexander-Murray piece that is passed into law," Collins told Roll Call. Alexander-Murray refers to a bill co-authored by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. and Patty Murray, D-Wash., that is intended to address perceived shortcomings in the Affordable Care Act.
On Monday, the Treasury Department said the bill would add $1 trillion to the national deficit — but also based their score of the bill on a supposition that Congress would slash welfare spending during that time.