April 24, 2014
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, think Democrats will lose the public relations war on tax cuts.

Political Theater Over Tax Cut

Republicans said Wednesday that they are prepared to filibuster President Barack Obama’s small-business tax cut, believing that any political hit will be minimal even as they go against decades of GOP support for tax cuts of all kinds.

The Republican Party believes it will have plenty of cover for voting to block the tax cut, and some Democrats quietly agree, feeling the White House botched the messaging on the bill — the first item on its “to-do” list — by pivoting earlier this week to extending Bush tax cuts.

For months, Democrats led by Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) had carefully laid the groundwork for a tax trap: Republicans would either have to give Democrats a victory on a small-business jobs bill or face a backlash for blocking a straight-up tax cut because it had Obama’s name on it.

But that trap has been muddied by the White House’s pivot to the Bush tax cuts and by the hard line Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has taken against Republican tax amendments.

Several Republicans said after a Conference lunch Wednesday that they would not go along with the bill if Reid did not give the minority the chance to vote on their amendments. And they noted that the bill technically violates the Constitution because revenue bills must start in the House.

“We’re not shooting with real bullets, so you might as well have the fight over the principle of whether the Senate is going to continue to be the Senate and require members to take votes,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said. “That’s a bigger principle than whether you’re going to pass some tax bill that isn’t even really a tax bill. ... The majority is unwilling to take votes on almost anything, whether it’s the budget, or appropriations or amendments on a bill.”

Republicans say Democrats don’t have credibility to win a PR fight on taxes anyway.

“Do you think anybody in America really believes that the Democrats are more pro-growth and more in favor of lower taxes than Republicans?” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) asked. “I don’t think anybody believes that. They’re not going to be able to create that fiction through this one clearly, transparently concocted package.”

Toomey dismissed the tax cut itself — a 10 percent tax credit for additions to payroll and accelerated expensing provisions the GOP has previously supported.

“A few months worth of a temporary tax credit does nothing. ... We’re six months into 2012. Decisions have already been made for 2012.”

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said he was unlikely to vote for a bill he couldn’t amend, and he said other Republicans would probably feel the same way.

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