Down But Never Out: McConnell Delivers on Tax Cuts
By: Scott Jennings
In the wee hours of July 28, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor after a long and disappointing day.
“I regret that our efforts were not enough,” McConnell said following the Senate’s failure to repeal and replace Obamacare. “It’s time to move on.”
Never one to navel gaze, McConnell was already plotting his next move—winning on tax reform, a pillar of the Republican campaign that swept the GOP to full control in Washington. McConnell isn’t a golfer, but he followed a rule that separates hackers from the pros—banish the last shot from your mind and prepare to hit the next one solid.
By Friday morning, the Obamacare repeal failure a distant memory, McConnell stood confidently in the fairway about to stick a pure six-iron into one of the toughest greens in Washington.
“We have the votes,” McConnell messaged me at 10:25 a.m.
Thursday’s tax reform tee shot hadn’t gone as planned, a procedural wrinkle briefly roiling the situation. But McConnell creatively scrambled, preserved the birdie chance, and tapped in the putt early Saturday morning. The veteran Kentucky lawmaker all but ensured that an actual golfer at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue will sign a piece of signature legislation by Christmas Day.
Not only did McConnell notch wins for Trump on corporate and middle class tax cuts, but he erased a big part of Obamacare by repealing the individual mandate, considered a tax by the Supreme Court. Republicans wanted Obamacare gutted and that’s exactly what McConnell delivered.
While it seemed improbable a few weeks ago, congressional Republicans will end 2017 with an impressive roster of accomplishments. And Democrats are left with empty, outlandish rhetoric proving just how far left their party has lurched. Not one Democratic Senator—even from deep red states—voted for a tax bill in which the middle class received the largest cut. Instead, they followed Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren down a dark, dishonest, and liberal path that most of the country won’t accept.
After eight years of tepid growth under Barack Obama (he’s the only president never to have a full year of three percent growth), the economy is growing faster under Republican leadership and primed for more. The stock market jumped over 24-thousand for the first time this week, the 4.1 percent unemployment rate is a 17-year low, and growth has topped three percent for three straight quarters despite a series of hurricanes.
Trump correctly argues that his presidency has renewed confidence and enthusiasm in the American marketplace. Trump and McConnell have rolled back Obama’s anti-business regulations; saved the Supreme Court for a generation by confirming Neil Gorsuch; remade the lower courts at a blistering pace (nine circuit judges confirmed and three more coming this month, McConnell tells me); and delivered a 20 percent corporate tax rate that makes America competitive with the rest of the world.
McConnell has helped Trump build an economic policy firewall against any turbulence that may come from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. No matter what happens (dark clouds are forming), McConnell and Trump’s pro-growth policy show should keep consumer confidence humming.
“We were clearly underperforming, and you have to ask the question, why? It was a combination of over-regulation and a lousy tax code,” McConnell said.
The political challenge for Republicans is to connect voters’ increasingly good vibes on the economy to Trump’s leadership. Unfortunately for the president, his job approval in Gallup’s tracking fell to 33 percent on Friday, his lowest number yet, although his RealClearPolitics average is nearly 40 percent.
To bring Trump’s job approval into alignment with a cracking economy, Republicans should focus specifically and relentlessly on their policy wins during the 2018 midterm campaign and hope the president becomes disciplined enough to join them. McConnell, who conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt calls the “most competent and accomplished” Senate Majority Leader of his lifetime, has delivered the content for such a push.
“It was pretty clear during this debate we have a very different view of what America ought to look like. Our Democratic friends are quite content with slow growth and little opportunity to improve your condition. We think we need to jumpstart the economy and provide more jobs and more opportunity for the American people,” McConnell said, framing up the debate.
And that’s enough to make any conservative yell “You the man!” the next time McConnell ascends the legislative tee box.