On Friday morning, Oct. 20, President Donald Trump expressed his pleasure with Republicans in the Senate, after his fellow GOP members passed a budget that will now help them accomplish their biggest objective: tax reform. The budget was passed by a 51-49, majority with only one Republican, Sen. Rand Paul (KY), voting "no" alongside the 48 Democrats in the Senate. Trump's tweets about tax reform celebrated the narrow victory and hailed it as a step toward "massive" tax cuts.
After the vote on the budget was confirmed, Trump tweeted,
Great news on the 2018 budget [Senate Majority Leader] McConnell - first step toward delivering MASSIVE tax cuts for the American people!
Hours later, the president tweeted again about the vote,
The Budget passed late last night, 51 to 49. We got ZERO Democrat votes with only Rand Paul (he will vote for Tax Cuts) voting against ... This now allows for the passage of large scale Tax Cuts (and Reform), which will be the biggest in the history of our country!
Passing a new budget allows Republicans in Congress to try passing a major law via a process known as reconciliation. Normally, if Congress wants to create a new law from scratch, passing the law would require a minimum of 60 votes in the Senate, with the GOP doesn't have. With reconciliation, however, Republicans only need 50 votes (plus a tie breaker from Vice President Mike Pence) to pass a major law, provided the law helps the country fall in line with a certain budget. Reconciliation only gives the GOP a certain amount of time to pass the law by a simply majority though, which means the clock is officially ticking on the party, and the pressure is on.
Furthermore, there is already precedent for the clock running out on Republicans.
Back in January, Republican leadership in the Senate began its effort to repeal Obamacare by passing a budget resolution, which similarly paved the way for a repeal by reconciliation. The deadline for them to pass a repeal bill was the end of September, which is why members of Congress were scrambling to pass Graham-Cassidy last month. Ultimately, however, the GOP couldn't get the 50 votes it needed in the Senate by the end of September to get a new health care bill done.
Why Tax Reform Is Do Or Die For Republicans
The importance of tax reform has a lot to do with the fact that Republicans have neither passed an Obamacare repeal bill, nor any other major law. In other words, the GOP hasn't accomplished much to celebrate, despite the fact that the party controls the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives.
That type of failure has the potential to make Republicans vulnerable in the 2018 midterm elections, an idea which has been expressed by leading Republicans themselves. Earlier in October, Sen. Ted Cruz warned that his party would face a bloodbath if it continued to go without a major accomplishment in Congress. Cruz said,
If we do nothing, if tax reform crashes and burns, if Obamacare nothing happens, we could face a bloodbath. I think we have the potential of seeing a Watergate-style blowout.
The "Watergate-style blowout" refers to the election cycle that took place after Republican president Richard Nixon resigned following the revelation of his role in the Watergate scandal. During that cycle, Democrats gained over 50 seats in Congress.
Sen. Lindsey Graham also delivered a warning to his party, telling CBS' Face the Nation that the GOP would be "dead" if it failed to pass tax reform. Graham said,
If we don't cut taxes and we don't eventually repeal and replace Obamacare, then we're going to lose across the board in the House in 2018. And all of my colleagues running in primaries in 2018 will probably get beat.
In other words, tax reform is the new Obamacare repeal for Republicans: a massive task that the party has to get done, or else.