The most vulnerable blue-state House Republicans are stuck between a rock and a hard place on the tax reform.
Democrats are pounding them for legislation that potentially would make some voters pay more in high-tax blue states. And, if history is a guide, voting against the bill won’t necessarily protect GOPers in next year’s midterm elections.
“With a lot of those blue-state Republicans, they are in trouble no matter what,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “There is a blue wave coming. We are going to lose seats in the House. The only question is: How many?”
Indeed, the party in power has lost an average of 25 House seats in midterm elections since World War II. In the nine elections before which the president’s party controlled both chambers of Congress, as is now the case, it has lost an average 33 House seats.
In 2018, Republican would only have to net a loss of 24 seats to lose the majority.
Rep. Barbara Comstock is one of the House Republican in a no-win situation on tax reform. President Trump lost in her district in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., by 10 percentage points.
“Whether she passes it or doesn’t pass it, Barbara Comstock is in the path of that wave,” said Mr. O’Connell.
Ms. Comstock stuck with her party last week in the vote to approve the House GOP tax bill, known as the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.”
“This bill will jump-start businesses of all sizes and get wages rising again and put more money in the paychecks of our constituents and provide more opportunity for all,” she said after the vote.
Still, blocking the tax reform bill would be just as bad for Republicans. They’d end the year without delivering Mr. Trump a single major legislative accomplishment and have to justify keeping Republicans in control of Congress.
The House GOP could still beat the odds and save the majority, and passing tax reform is likely the best bet to do it.
But for those endangered blue-state Republicans, the tax reform bill is starting to look a lot like the Obamacare vote that cost so many Democrats their seats in 2010.
Recent polls show that a majority of Americans oppose the GOP tax reform plans, much like the majority that opposed Obamacare in the run-up to that fateful vote in 2010.
A Harvard-Harris Poll last week showed that 54 percent of Americans oppose the Republican tax bill and 54 percent also said it was more likely to hurt them than help them financially.
That’s eerily similar to the 59 percent of Americans who opposed Obamacare in the days before it passed Congress in March 2010.
But eight months later, Democrats who voted against the health care bill were not spared voters’ wrath at the polls.
A total of 34 House Democrats voted “no” on President Obama’s health care bill. Four opted not to seek reelection, but of the 30 who voted against Obamacare and ran, more than half — 17 — got booted from office.
Democrats hope that history is predictor.
They are assailing Republicans on their target list for provisions in the House bill that passed last week that eliminate most state and local tax deductions, or SALT. The change could boost the federal income tax on some in high-tax states such as California, New York, New Jersey and Maryland.
The House GOP bill kept some of those vulnerable Republicans onboard with a compromise that exempted up to $10,000 in local property taxes. Thirteen House Republicans still bucked the bill, with all but one of them coming from blue states and most being on the Democrats’ hit list.
The Senate bill, which will be debated by the full chamber when senators return from the holiday break, completely eliminated SALT deductions.
“If you are a Republican congressman from a state like California that will lose money under the House-passed bill, I will be amazed if you survive the next election. The attack ads write themselves,” said Democratic strategist Jim Manley.
“Sure, you will get political cover via TV ads from folks like the Koch brothers, but voting to stick it to your state while passing tax cuts for wealthy corporations seems to me to be a tough thing to defend,” he said.