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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Why are Senate Republicans scrambling to pass a hastily rewritten tax bill that most Americans don't even like? Think of it as the mirror image of what Democrats did seven years ago with the Affordable Care Act. When it's a core issue for your party — as tax cuts are to Republicans, health care was to Democrats — you'd better be able to pass it.

The bottom line: When Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress, it would be hard to explain why they couldn't pass a rewrite of the tax code — every bit as central to their agenda as health care was to the Democrats when they controlled the White House and Congress. The details, and the polling, are almost beside the point.

The parallels between the tax bill and the Affordable Care Act are hard to avoid:

  • President Trump has been promising the tax bill since day one, and Republican leaders have been campaigning for tax cuts for years.
  • Barack Obama campaigned on the health care for the uninsured, and Democrats were eager to finish what they regarded as the last missing piece of the social safety net.
  • Trump and Republicans are especially eager to pass the tax bill after the embarrassing failure of their last major initiative (repealing the Democratic health care law).
  • Democrats were eager to pass health care after decades of failures, including the collapse of Bill and Hillary Clinton's health care effort in 1994.
  • A Republican president and Congress give them the best shot at tax cuts that they're going to get, just as Democrats knew they'd never get a better shot at health care than they had in 2010.
  • The polling is historically bad for the tax bill — but it was for the health care bill too, by the time Democrats were ready to pass it. Republicans are going ahead with the tax bill because they know it's popular with a majority of their voters, just as health care was with most Democratic voters.

Where they're different:

  • Senate Democrats rewrote their health care bill on the floor — largely behind closed doors — to get enough votes. That's what Republicans are doing now. But the Democrats took days, while the Republicans are doing it in just hours.
  • A former Senate Republican aide who worked on the health care bill notes that the rewrite by Senate Democrats took "the entire month of December" (here's a good recap from The Washington Post). The Republican tax bill rewrite happened overnight.
  • The Democrats finished their health care bill through the budget "reconciliation" process, which only required 51 Senate votes. But that happened after the Senate passed its initial version with 60 votes — and then had to make the final tweaks through reconciliation after Democrats lost their 60-seat majority. Republicans are using the process from beginning to end.

What to watch: Remember how Democrats took the blame for everything bad that happened with health care after they passed the ACA by themselves, and had trouble getting any credit for the good stuff? If Republicans rewrite the tax code by themselves, they're going to own it, too.

Go deeper

White House says it expects federal contractors to be vaccinated by Dec. 8

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House said in new guidance Friday that it expects millions of federal contractors to be vaccinated against the coronavirus no later than Dec. 8.

Why it matters: Companies with federal contractors have been waiting for formal guidance from the White House before requiring those employees to get vaccinated, according to Reuters.

CDC director maintains Pfizer booster recommendation for high-risk workers

Rochelle Walensky listens during a confirmation hearing on July 20. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky on Friday reiterated her decision to go against a recommendation by a CDC advisory panel that refused to endorse booster shots for workers whose jobs put them at high risk for contracting COVID-19.

Driving the news: "Our healthcare systems are once again at maximum capacity in parts of the country, our teachers are facing uncertainty as they walk into the classroom," Walensky said at a Friday briefing. "I must do what I can to preserve the health across our nation."

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats release full text of Biden's $3.5T reconciliation package

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday unveiled the full text of President Biden's $3.5 trillion social spending package.

Why it matters: Democrats are racing to finish negotiations and get the bill on the floor as soon as possible so Pelosi can fulfill her promises to both House centrists and progressives about the timing and sequencing of passing the party's dual infrastructure packages.