Last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told a variety of conservative media outlets that the Republican tax plan would deliver “a tax cut for everybody.” When evidence emerged that millions of middle-class households would pay more under the GOP proposal, Ryan’s office conceded that the Speaker “misspoke.”
Evidently, there’s a lot of that going around.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, acknowledged on Friday that the Republican tax plan might result in a tax hike for some working Americans, saying he “misspoke” days earlier when he said that “nobody in the middle class is going to get a tax increase” under the Senate bill.
“I misspoke on that,” Mr. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said in an interview on Friday with The New York Times.
Remember, the ostensible point of the entire exercise was the GOP’s stated desire to lower taxes on the middle class. And yet, last week, both the top Republican in the House and the top Republican in the Senate acknowledged some in the middle class will pay more in taxes, not less, under their plan.
This seems likely to create political problems for the party, but before we go too far down that road, GOP leaders are confronting a more immediate problem: their tax plan may not be able to pass.
The legislative procedures get a little tricky, but the problem is relatively straightforward: congressional Republicans, hoping to circumvent a Democratic filibuster, are pushing their tax plan through something called the budget reconciliation process. Under Senate rules – specifically, the “Byrd Rule” – bills passed this way can’t increase the deficit after 10 years.
By the GOP’s own admission, the current version of the Republican tax plan adds roughly $1.5 trillion to the deficit in its first 10 years – which is quite a bit for a party that occasionally pretends to care about balancing the budget – but then keeps running red ink in the years that follow. (According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Senate bill is even further from budget neutrality than the House bill.)
In other words, the GOP tax plan, at least in its current iteration, is at odds with the procedural rules Republicans are counting on. The arithmetic isn’t complicated: if the tax cuts aren’t deficit neutral by 2028, Republicans will need 60 votes in the Senate, not 50.