“Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s response speech suggested that the Republican counter will be light on policy and heavy on grievances.”
“Sanders could have used the speech to challenge the Biden administration’s ambitious spending proposals even while inflation and the national debt remain serious problems. Instead, she touted that her first act as governor included banning the word “Latinx” from official government use and forbidding schools from teaching critical race theory.”
“Sanders briefly addressed COVID-19 policy by saying that she “repealed COVID orders and said ‘never again’ to authoritarian mandates and shutdowns.” But the majority of her speech was a missed opportunity. When Sanders mentioned Democrats’ “trillions in reckless spending and mountains of debt,” it was to decry that the spending had failed to stop “fentanyl [from] pouring across our southern borders.””
“the speech signaled what Republicans would likely focus on over the next 18 months. As Josh Barro wrote last week, Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush each provided optimistic versions of Republican governance, proposing national prosperity and “compassionate conservatism,” respectively. But today’s Republican party is characterized by “mostly bad, bitter feelings;” corporations and the military are now “woke” and should each be brought to heel; by legislative force, if necessary. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is broadly popular in his state and a likely 2024 presidential candidate, has turned this ethos into a series of punitive steps against disfavored groups and companies.”
“The FairTax, at its heart, is simple enough: It would take almost every federal tax and replace them with a fat 30 percent sales tax on everything. Virtually every American would get a monthly check from the government to cover the cost of paying the tax on essentials. It’s a radical idea, but one which since its first introduction to Congress in 1999 has been a favorite of conservative Republicans. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) already has 23 co-sponsors for the current iteration. Prominent party figures like Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain have all championed the idea over the years.
Not surprisingly, liberal groups who judge the proposal regressive are against it. But so are many enthusiastic conservative tax-cutters, like the Wall Street Journal editorial board and Grover Norquist. Here’s what National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru had to say about it:
“Any House Republican who backs this bill can accurately be accused of voting for … raising the price of everything by a huge amount at a time when inflation is already high; shifting more of the tax burden to the middle class; instituting a large new wealth tax on senior citizens; increasing federal spending by a massive amount; increasing the deficit; and creating large black markets.””
“he FairTax gets rid of the personal and corporate income taxes, and the estate tax, which are the three most progressive taxes in the federal code. For most poor people, the personal income tax already gives them money through provisions like the earned income tax credit or the child tax credit. Getting rid of it means all those benefits go away.
At the top end, the rich go from paying a top rate of 40.8 percent on their wages, as well as 23.8 percent on their income from investments, to just paying the 30 percent tax on everything they buy. But wealthy people save more of their income than non-wealthy people do, and everything they save would be tax-free. By one measure, rich people in the 2010s saved 8.5 percent of their income, while the bottom 90 percent had a negative savings rate, spending 2.8 percent more than they earned.
I know of no credible estimates of the distributional impact of the FairTax, if it were to replace income and payroll taxes, but when the Bush administration appointed a panel to study tax reform proposals, it concluded that using the tax to replace the income tax alone would sharply raise taxes on the middle class.”
“Assuming a reasonable amount of tax evasion (20 percent) — and the question of evasion is important, as you’ll see — he found that the FairTax would increase the deficit by about $10.6 trillion over 10 years. In order to avoid increasing the deficit 10 years later, the FairTax would have to be set at 64.4 percent.”
“I wouldn’t be so quick to reject sales taxes more broadly. There’s a reason every rich country except the US has a value-added tax: It’s a very efficient, easy-to-administer way to raise lots of money for progressive social programs like universal health care, child allowances, long-term care, and more.
Gale, the FairTax critic, is actually a vocal advocate for adopting a VAT in the US. I like his idea of pairing a 10 percent VAT with a small universal basic income to make sure low-income people come out ahead. He estimates the bottom 20 percent of earners would see their incomes rise by nearly 17 percent as a result, while households with income above $90,000 or so would pay more. If you use some of the revenue to pay for the now-expired expanded child tax credit, the net effect would likely be a substantial reduction in poverty.
You could also, as Columbia professor Michael Graetz and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) have proposed, use the VAT to exempt all but the wealthiest individuals from the income tax, by creating standard deductions of $50,000 or $100,000 for couples. This isn’t as progressive as using it for a UBI, but it would vastly simplify income tax collection and enable the large majority of Americans to not worry about filing taxes ever.”
“Two polls found that a plurality of Americans thought that the drama surrounding the speaker election hurt the GOP. According to a HarrisX/Deseret News poll conducted right after McCarthy’s election, 41 percent of registered voters felt that the Republican Party was weaker after the speaker election, and only 23 percent thought it was stronger. In addition, 43 percent of registered voters told HarrisX/the Deseret News that the ordeal made them trust the Republican Party less. Meanwhile, 34 percent of respondents told Ipsos that the drama weakened the Republican Party, and only 19 percent said it strengthened the party.
In reality, these poll questions don’t tell us that much. We’ve written previously about the dangers of pollsters asking whether a given event makes people more or less likely to vote for a candidate or party. Asking whether the speaker election made people trust the GOP less falls into the same trap. The question allows people to express dissatisfaction with the election without considering where their feelings started on the issue. (For example, quite a few of those people — i.e., Democrats — probably had little or no trust for the GOP to begin with.)
And asking Americans to be pundits and assess whether the GOP is weaker in the wake of the speaker vote is less informative than just looking at the GOP’s actual standing. Several polls have shown that the Republican Party’s brand hasn’t changed since the disharmony. It was damaged before the speaker vote, and it’s still damaged after it”
“it’s worth noting what the anti-Ukraine aid crowd in Congress generally doesn’t support: ending U.S. weapons transfers and military funding to other countries.
Hawley, for example, has connected his opposition to Ukraine aid to his enthusiasm for Taiwan aid. Earlier this year, he introduced legislation to fast-track U.S. arms sales to Taipei. He’s also repeatedly voted against resolutions stopping weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, and he likewise voted against ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen’s civil war.
Similarly, Vance has suggested that until semiconductor production is ramped up domestically, the U.S. would need to defend Taiwan against Chinese attack. Gaetz has a more mixed record—he’s willing to cut off U.S. backing for Saudi Arabia in Yemen—but he’s uniquely targeted Ukraine aid for slashing. Cutting aid to Israel is certainly off the table. Indeed, none of the representatives I’ve named here voted against $1 billion in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome last year, and Hawley and Vance are as effusive in their pledges of support for Israel as congressional Republicans tend to be.
The fuller picture, then, doesn’t show a GOP pivot to America as “well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all” but “champion and vindicator only of her own.” A better explanation is simple partisan reaction: Many Democrats believe Trump is in bed with Moscow and made investigating his alleged ties to the Kremlin a major theme of his four years in office. That has translated to a broader Democratic focus on Russia as the primary threat to the United States and, by extension, on Ukraine as a pseudo-ally particularly deserving of our support.
In response, some Republicans have—well, not quite embraced Russia, but certainly deemphasized it as a security risk compared to what they likely would have said without the recent history of Russiagate. They’ve cast China as the primary threat instead and, by extension, made Taiwan the pseudo-ally deserving support. And insofar as backing Ukraine is a Democratic cause—insofar as Ukrainian flags flutter over “In this house we believe” signs, as they reliably do in my neighborhood—GOP opposition to Ukraine aid naturally follows, despite the obvious sympathy of the Ukrainian cause.”
“For a brief moment following the January 6 Capitol riot, it looked like most Republican lawmakers and pundits would condemn Trump’s lies and the riot they spawned. But a funny thing happened on the way to what should have been a reckoning: A whole lot of conservatives decided to back Trump’s narrative about a stolen election. Meanwhile, those who vocally opposed it found themselves on the wrong side of the ongoing inter-GOP war, one in which more moderate or conventional conservatives were demonized by Trump and his populist lackeys and Republican rising stars fought to position themselves as “the craziest son of a bitch in the race” (to quote Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie on what he realized voters swinging from libertarian-leaning candidates to Trump were looking for).
Flash forward two years, and whack job populism has suffered a smidge of comeuppance. The 2022 midterm elections weren’t kind to Trump-backed candidates and election deniers, and—Trump’s 2024 candidacy notwithstanding—it looks like the fever dream that culminated in the events of January 6, 2021, has started to break.”
“In addition to Republicans’ pledge to slice $130 billion from the $1.7 trillion government funding package that passed in December, conservatives want to take the process old-school. Rather than passing one massive bill, they’re calling for individual votes on the dozen appropriations bills that set annual budgets for different agencies, a more time-consuming but transparent procedure that recent Congresses have struggled to complete.
They’re also planning to allow an amendment free-for-all, which is all but certain to further drag out or trip things up.
Additionally, House Republicans say they’ll refuse to negotiate with the Senate until the upper chamber passes its own spending bills, which hasn’t happened in years. Typically, Senate appropriators have instead entered into bipartisan talks with their House counterparts, only burning valuable floor time on a package they’re certain would pass both chambers.
And GOP demands expand beyond funding the government. Republicans say they won’t back a debt limit increase unless they get their way on spending cuts or measures to reign in the ever-increasing $31 trillion debt. The timing of that could be tricky, however, as the Treasury Department could hit its credit card limit this summer, while federal cash expires on Sept. 30.
A debt ceiling hike will arguably make for a much bigger battle in Congress, leaving even less time and patience for bipartisan talks on funding the government.”
“meaningful concession is McCarthy’s reported agreement to reserve three seats for hard-core conservatives on the House Rules Committee. The Rules Committee is one of the most powerful committees in the House — setting the rules (duh) of debates, choosing which pieces of legislation to bring up to a vote and even rewriting legislation that has already passed another committee. If the Rules Committee maintains its traditional partisan composition — nine members of the majority party, four of the minority — then it could have six McCarthy-aligned Republicans, three insurgent Republicans and four Democrats, which means that McCarthy-aligned Republicans would constitute a minority on the committee. In the words of one conservative activist, that would effectively make the Rules Committee a “European-style coalition government” where the hard-right bloc is like a third party, and McCarthy and his allies would have to negotiate with them (or Democrats) to get anything done.
This, in turn, could make it more likely that the federal government shuts down and/or defaults on its debt in 2023. The insurgent wing of the GOP was at the center of the government shutdown fight in 2013 and the debt ceiling fight in 2011, and McCarthy has agreed to fight for their preferred spending cuts here in 2023. But of course, nothing can become law without buy-in from the Democrats who still control the Senate and the White House, who are about as ideologically far removed from the conservative hardliners as it gets.”
“According to the Manhattan Institute’s Brian Riedl, the GOP plan so far is to cut $130 billion from discretionary appropriations. Unfortunately, the defense budget and veterans health funds are excluded from cuts, despite making up $993 billion out of $1,602 billion discretionary budget. As Riedl notes, their plan will require “freezing those two items and cutting everything else by 21% immediately.”
This maneuver guarantees political failure for the Republicans’ plan.”
“imposing cuts on only a small share of the discretionary budget excludes trillions of dollars from scrutiny and is a political nonstarter.”
“while limiting discretionary spending is a good start, fiscal sustainability requires that Congress also cut the mandatory side of the budget. Indeed, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—not defense or education—are still the chief drivers of our future debt, just as they have been in the past. Along with the interest the Treasury must pay on the debt, these three programs will be responsible for 86 percent of federal spending between 2008 and 2032, says Riedl. In other words, no level of discretionary spending cuts will ever be enough to control the upcoming debt explosion.”
“Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his GOP allies insist that no back-room promises were made to land his gavel after 15 frenetic ballots, that no plum committee spots, precise spending cuts, or debt limit strategy were guaranteed in a quid pro quo. Agreements and goals were reached with conservatives who initially withheld their votes from the speaker, GOP leaders say, but nothing was formalized in writing.”
“One McCarthy holdout, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), bluntly told Fox News when asked “what did you get” that he would join the influential GOP Steering Committee “as Speaker McCarthy’s designee.”
McCarthy also informed members that the House would take its first-ever vote this Congress on a contentious national sales tax bill that Georgia Republicans — including McCarthy dissenter Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) — have pushed for decades.
“That was part of the negotiation. The 20 conservatives who were holding out, one of the things that they wanted was to see it come to the floor for a vote,” Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) said.”
“Another McCarthy promise was to diversify the membership on coveted House panels, which in practice means adding more Freedom Caucus members and other conservatives. That has begun to happen: Four speaker-race holdouts — Clyde, Donalds, Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Texas) and Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) — were awarded spots on prime committees”
“Clyde stressed: “There’s no secret rules addendum. There’s just an agreement.”
The rumored existence of a binding secret document, however, prompted multiple GOP lawmakers to approach their leaders about it, texting each other in search of the missing paper.”
“Some House Republicans argue that the most divisive of the concessions floating around are “aspirational” — particularly on issues like spending and the debt limit, which would need to get buy-in from the Democratic Senate and White House to go anywhere.”
“Those who know Pence best say he is wrestling with how to recalibrate himself to a Republican base that hasn’t yet forgiven him for refusing Trump’s pressure to overturn the election results — and maybe never will. When you’ve buried your true self for four years in service to someone who happens to be the most divisive and unpopular former president since Richard Nixon, it’s not so easy to excavate yourself again. Pence, who describes himself as a “conservative, but not in a bad mood about it,” likes to be liked. “He would love to be reconciled to the president,” a confidant told me. “My sense is he’s seen that window close.” But neither is Pence willing to take the other path, reject the base who held his life in such low regard, and full-throatedly present himself as the man who saved democracy. “He’s not,” the confidant told me, “going to go Liz Cheney.””
“In July of 2016, Trump picked Pence to be his running mate and automatically resurrected Pence’s political career. Pence repaid his benefactor with four years of nearly unswerving loyalty. When Trump put his water bottle down in a FEMA meeting briefing on the 2018 hurricane season, so did Pence. Pence took to describing the president in physically glowing terms, referring regularly to his “broad shoulders.” In one Cabinet meeting, he praised Trump once every 12 seconds for three minutes straight. “I had always been loyal to President Donald Trump,” the prologue of his book begins. “He was my president, and he was my friend.”
“When he became vice president, he knew that he had to subordinate his views,” Jim Atterholt, Pence’s former gubernatorial chief of staff who would later set up Pence’s legal defense fund during the Russia investigation, told me. “That doesn’t mean he didn’t have private conversations with the president where he shared concerns, but in public, he always subordinated his views. People saw that as being obsequious. But really, he was just being Mike Pence, which is a loyal vice president.”
From afar, Boehner, who himself thought he knew the bounds of Pence’s loyalty, having been the object of it when they served in the House together, marveled. “You know, there’s loyalty and then there’s, frankly, blind loyalty, which is what he exhibited as vice president because he had hundreds of opportunities to say, ‘We’re not really quite in the same place,’ or even raise an eyebrow for God’s sake.”
Boehner watched Pence stand by Trump through a number of imbroglios: Pence didn’t turn on Trump amid the “Access Hollywood” scandal, declining to usurp him on the ticket. In his book, he almost congratulated Trump for how he handled the fallout, writing that during the presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump “squared his shoulders” and “apologized to the American people.” He stood by Trump when the president said there were “good people on both sides” at the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. He defended the administration’s response to Covid, writing an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal headlined “There Isn’t a Coronavirus ‘Second Wave.’” (Pence writes in his book that editors “placed a somewhat misleading headline on the essay.”) And he defended Trump’s decision to clear Lafayette Square of protesters, writing that he “watched as the media went wild, suggesting that the U.S. Park Police had tear-gassed protesters.”
Was Boehner disappointed in his old charge? I asked. “No, because I know the role of vice president. And when you’re the No. 2 guy, you salute the No. 1 guy.”
Still, Boehner added: “I sat back and watched this, going back to October of 2016,” — when the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape dropped — “and I’m thinking to myself, ‘My God, when is Pence going to say something because he can’t be this loyal.’ He was. And he was loyal every single day to Trump. I marveled through all of this, although looking back, I should’ve known he would be. And then he was directly loyal to the Constitution on Jan. 6.””