Several months back, Republicans drew a red line in the sand in their negotiations with Democrats on a bill to make massive investments in American jobs and infrastructure: It couldn’t touch their 2017 tax giveaway to the nation’s rich and powerful. Whatever the merit or need for these investments in the nation’s future, Republicans simply wouldn’t roll back any of the 14% tax cut (from 35% to 21%) they had gifted to corporations, among others.
“I think that’s a non-negotiable red line,” Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the GOP’s lead negotiator, had told reporters in April.
It’s seemed like an early death knell for any potential cooperation on a bill, but it also left an open door for Democrats to walk through. They could pull a modern-day Robinhood on taxation: Roll back the GOP windfall for America’s wealthiest to improve the lives of the 99%.
It was almost impossibly stupid for Republicans, given that their tax law has been underwater for years now—garnering a meager 35% support in several different polls in 2019. But hey, what’s a GOP lawmaker to do when they’re entirely beholden to the rich and powerful donors to fund their campaigns?
Well, Democrats are finally taking up Republicans on that political gift. While many of the details of the new $3.5 trillion Democrats-only economic package remain murky, one thing is perfectly clear: Democrats are intent on fully funding it by rolling back at least some of the GOP’s wildly unpopular tax cut.
“The wealthy and large corporations are going to pay their fair share of taxes so that we can protect the working families of this country,” explained Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Budget Committee chair and arguably the most liberal member of the Senate Democratic caucus.
On the other side of the Democratic spectrum, centrist Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who also sits on the Budget Committee, promised that revisiting the GOP’s 2017 tax plan would be a necessity to both fund the bill and “make our tax code fair.”
This is also one area where Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia doesn’t seem to be a fly in the ointment. In fact, Warner’s observations about the fairness of the tax code echo remarks from Manchin last month.
“Republicans have drawn a line in the sand on not changing anything, and I thought the 2017 tax bill was a very unfair bill, and weighted to a side that basically did not benefit the average American. So I voted against it,” Manchin said. “I think there are some adjustments that need to be made.”
Those adjustments are clearly coming—the sooner, the better. Democrats taking a hatchet to a GOP tax law that largely benefitted the rich in order to make the tax code more equitable for working people is ideal political positioning for 2022. Democrats will rightfully be able to say they fought for working Americans while Republicans shilled for the rich.
And if Democrats manage to deliver, Sanders offered, “This is the most significant piece of legislation … since the Great Depression, and I’m delighted to be part of having helped to put it together.”
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