If the current state of tax reform were a football game, it would be the 1987 AFC Championship. The GOP would be the Cleveland Browns, driving to certain victory in a tied-up tilt with the Denver Broncos. The passage of the House bill leaves the GOP with 1st and goal from the 8, and all that’s left for the Senate to do is pound the ball into the end zone and start packing for the Super Bowl.
But if you think that advantaged position leaves a GOP triumph assured, I’d suggest you Google the name “Earnest Byner.”
Up to this point, nothing has slowed the tax reform train, largely because opponents have been given neither the opportunity nor the time to do so. With Republican control of the House, passage of the House bill was assured on a strict party-line basis. And even if some Republicans had unvoiced concerns, the process moved from publishing of proposed legislation (November 2nd) to mark-up by the House Ways and Means Committee (November 6th) to a full vote (November 16th) so quickly, that few had a chance to fully absorb the ramifications of the bill.
That pace, of course, was no accident. The House wanted to get the bill passed as quickly as possible; yes, in part to take a major step towards the legislative victory that has eluded the GOP since President Trump took over in January, but perhaps more importantly, because the sooner the bill was passed, the less likely that information would become available regarding the plan that would make it more difficult to justify voting for.
Things are different in the Senate, however. Republicans don’t enjoy the same comfortable majority that thy do in the House; in fact, Republicans currently control only 52 seats, and using the streamlined budget reconciliation process, 51 votes are needed to get a tax bill through the Senate. As a result, the GOP can afford only two defections (a 50-50 tie would lead to Vice President Pence voting the deciding “yea” vote), meaning if tax reform is going to fall apart, it was always going to fall apart in the Senate, rather than the House.
Perhaps more troubling for the Senate, however, has been the pace. A vote is not scheduled until next week at the earliest, and based on what most tax pundits have learned about the bill, time is its biggest enemy. Because with time, the many faults of the proposal become public, putting pressure on three Republican Senators to cast reform-killing “nay” votes.
Authored by Tony Nitti, Withum Partner and writer for Forbes.com.