Dec 1, 2017

The bill Republicans can’t not pass

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.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 65,691 — Total deaths: 30,438 — Total recoveries: 139,263.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 119,748 — Total deaths: 1,991 — Total recoveries: 921.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump is considering a quarantine on New York, parts of New Jersey and Connecticut. He signed a $2 trillion stimulus bill to give businesses and U.S. workers financial relief.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters that supported Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are now balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Infant dies after testing positive for coronavirus in Chicago

Hospital staff working inside a COVID-19 screening tent in Chicago on March 26. Photo: Jim Vondruska/NurPhoto via Getty Images

An infant less than one year old died in Chicago, Illinois after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, the state health department said on Saturday.

Why it matters: The death would mark the first reported infant mortality from COVID-19 in the U.S. The fatality rate for the novel coronavirus in the U.S. is highest among those over 85 years old, per the CDC.

Trump weighs quarantine of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

President Trump said on Saturday he is considering a "short term" quarantine of New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut — states that have already taken steps to quarantine residents and promote social distancing.

The big picture: With 112,000 people infected, the U.S. has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, exceeding China and Italy, per data from Johns Hopkins. A second wave of American cities, including Boston, Detroit, New Orleans and Philadelphia, are reporting influxes of cases.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Health