Top congressional Democrats used this week’s IRS filing deadline to ramp up calls to repeal GOP tax cuts -- drawing jeers from Republicans who say the package is helping working Americans, and putting some rank-and-file members in a difficult spot.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who is in a tough reelection race, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that while she'd vote to nix tax cuts for the wealthy, she would “never vote to repeal the parts that help middle-class families.”
“[T]here are parts of it that I would look at, but I would never touch the parts that are actually delivering savings to the majority of the people in my state," she said.
The party brass' laser focus on overhauling the tax law has created some tension for Democrats in swing districts and states, though Democrats still are seen as having a solid shot at winning the House majority in November.
“Any amount of money, more than what you have, is good,” Missouri Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver told Fox Business Network on Tuesday, regarding efforts to downplay tax bill-tied bonuses and cuts. “When you downplay somebody’s increase ... they’re not going to be quite happy.”
He still maintained the polling is "not good" for the tax cut, but described as a "dilemma" the risk of downplaying pay increases.
The polling indeed shows a mixed picture, and suggests Republicans might not want to pin their midterm hopes on the tax package either. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed support at 27 percent, and opposition at 36 percent. However, a whopping 34 percent had no opinion and independents were evenly split.
So there are risks as well as rewards for either party in building a midterm message so heavily focused on the tax plan.
Cleaver, like every other House colleague, surely remembers his party’s underwhelming results in the last election cycle, when the Democratic platform seemed more about opposing Republican Donald Trump’s presidential bid than delivering a clear economic message to Middle America voters.
Still, Democratic leaders made the tax law repeal a focus during a tax march rally on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
“When we take back the House, we will repeal and we will replace this bill,” New York Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley, the chamber’s No. 4 Democrat, said Tuesday.
He was followed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., calling the GOP plan a “scam” and saying 83 percent of the tax cuts are going to the top 1 percent of American earners. Pelosi previously faced criticism for calling tax law-tied bonuses "crumbs."
The tax law opposition was also a key part of the party's broader messaging this week, and shows party leaders now embracing a “repeal and replace” platform, like Republicans did with ObamaCare.
While the call might indeed rally the party base, Senate Democrats running for 2018 reelection in states that Trump won -- including Missouri’s McCaskill and Indiana’s Joe Donnelly -- are getting hit with multi-million-dollar TV and digital ad campaigns for voting against the tax cuts that Trump signed into law last December.
McCaskill's conciliatory approach could be an attempt to strike back against those campaigns.
Meanwhile, Nevada Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, who’s trying to take the seat of incumbent GOP Sen. Dean Heller, on Tuesday repeated her opposition to the GOP plan because, she says, it favors corporations and the super wealthy. But Rosen also made clear that she’s never backed calls by Washington Democrats to repeal the cuts entirely.
“I've never supported repealing middle class tax cuts – they should be bigger and permanent,” tweeted Rosen, competing in a state Trump narrowly lost in 2016 to Democrat Hillary Clinton.
National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Michael McAdams responded to Rosen’s tweet by saying her “desperate lie shows the political disaster she has created for herself by opposing the tax cuts.”
“No matter how much she twists the truth, voters won’t forget that instead of fighting to let them keep more of their hard-earned money, Rosen chose to back the wishes of her puppet master (House Democratic leader) Nancy Pelosi and Washington liberals.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee also said in response to the tax march: "Massive tax increases in 2019? Not an ideal message on Tax Day!"
Democrats, though, were emboldened by the WSJ/NBC poll.
Following its release, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee touted a digital Tax Day video titled “Diamond Teeth,” in which a group of actors posing as executives talk in a boardroom about how they’ll spend their tax cut while waiting for the big boss.
“Sorry I’m late. These teeth diamonds took forever,” the boss says upon arriving and flashing a new, glinted smile.
The DCCC said of congressional Republicans continuing to tout the cuts on the campaign trail: “The question now is how much effort GOP candidates sink into improving their stance on the tax-cut issue. They retain some advantages: Men still favor the tax cuts, although less strongly than women oppose it; so do rural residents, older men, and men without college degrees.”