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Seeking Reconciliation

Seeking Reconciliation
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, Pool

Dear Reader —

GOP leadership made a fateful decision to use a parliamentary procedure known as budget reconciliation to repeal and replace Obamacare. It would have allowed Republicans to get the job done swiftly and without a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate — subject to a few caveats. 

These caveats included not being able to repeal key aspects of Obamacare, including much of its regulatory architecture. The problem? House conservatives were hoping for something with much more bite, while moderates and Senate Republicans were already worried that the new health-care proposal went too far. In the end, Speaker Ryan and President Trump failed to unify their party around the one policy goal for which there was near consensus. Now onto simpler things — like tax reform.

According to William Gale of the Brookings Institution, if the Republicans manage to coalesce around anything it will likely be “tax cuts, rather than tax reform.” The reason, Gale thinks, is that the party simply lacks the “political will to create the losers or create the pay-fors that tax reform would require.” With the GOP leadership weakened by the health-care debacle, it seems unlikely that the party can overcome their ideological divisions.

In fact, Speaker Ryan had been eying tax reform all along. The same reconciliation process employed for the health-care bill would allow Republicans to pass permanent tax cuts without a filibuster-proof majority. The catch this time: the cuts must be revenue neutral (or else expire after ten years). The American Health Care Act contained cuts that would have made the fiscal baseline for neutrality more attainable. But the bill failed. Now House conservatives — already skeptical about neutrality — are even less likely to get on board. 

So the Republicans face a choice, according to Gale. They can use reconciliation again, in which case permanent cuts are unlikely, or they can aim for genuine bipartisan tax legislation. Some are calling on Republicans and Democrats to work together. This would remove the constraints of budget reconciliation, but the resulting reforms would likely be more moderate than even moderate Republicans would like. And, as Gale points out, it’s not at all clear whether — or why — Democrats would go for it.

Last summer, Jonathan Rauch warned that the weakening of our political institutions was resulting in “chaos syndrome” — a “chronic decline in the political system’s capacity for self-organization.” The problem, according to Rauch, is that democratic politics depends upon institutions, such as political parties, to build coalitions — to bring together diverse groups that neither agree on everything nor represent the same constituents. The counterintuitive result is that “disrupters” like Sanders and Trump, who are “accountable to no one,” wind up being too weak to stitch together the needed political unity to govern — precisely because they lack the mechanisms of threat and reward that such institutions once provided. 

Whatever one thinks of our parties or our political class, it is increasingly difficult to disagree with that diagnosis.

These are some of the many issues taken up at RealClearPolicy over the past two weeks. Below you will find just a few highlights.

— M. Anthony Mills, editor | RealClearPolicy

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Tax Reform: Can the GOP Pull It Off? In the tenth episode of the RealClearPolitics podcast series The First 100 Days, RealClearPolicy editor M. Anthony Mills talks with William G. Gale of the Brookings Institution about tax reform and the upcoming battle in Congress.

Democrats Should Work with Trump. Will Marshall makes the case in The New York Times.

Trumpcare’s Failure Sets the Stage for Single-Payer. In The New Republic, Sarah Jones suggests the time is right to push for single-payer health care.

Can We Survive Without a Strong Middle Class? For The Atlantic, Rebecca Rosen considers the thesis that the Constitution requires not only a “particular political system but also a particular economic one,” consisting of a “strong middle class and relatively mild inequality.”

The Urban-Rural Divide in America. In The Conversation, researchers spotlight data on the great divide between life in rural and urban America.

Health Care Will Be Back, So Fix the AHCA. In RealClearHealth, James C. Capretta and Tom Miller describe how Republicans can resuscitate the failed bill.

Did the Freedom Caucus Kill Permanent Tax Reform? Grover Norquist details how the failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act could impact tax reform.

The One Thing Trump Must Get Right. In Quadrant, Roger Kimball argues that if President Trump “manages to unravel the prerogatives” of the “managerial elite,” he will have made good on “his most important campaign promise.”

Trumpism: A Politics Desperately Seeking a TheoryLibrary of Law & Liberty’s Lauren Weiner contends that the political theory behind “Trumpism” remains as “hard to pin down as its unpredictable namesake.”

The Forgotten American Entrepreneur. In RealClearPolicy, Rom Reddy outlines a plan for leveling the playing field for American entrepreneurs facing foreign competition.

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