The most important policy question of the day: What does Doug Jones's underdog win Tuesday night mean for the GOP tax overhaul drive?
Officially, the answer is nothing. Party leaders believe they can draft a bill by Friday and pass it on Monday, at which point they'll still have 52 Senate votes and thus room to spare even with Bob Corker defecting.
But can they really get it done on that schedule? They've made promises to Susan Collins on health care and Jeff Flake on immigration that House Republicans seem disinclined to keep.
John McCain might develop some mavericky process objections to slamming a bill through with the vote of a lame-duck senator who the voters of Alabama rejected in a primary. Will House Republicans from California develop second thoughts about walking the plank on a SALT provision that's terrible for their constituents after watching the party lose in Alabama?
I'm not a fortune teller, but it's sure not obvious to me.
In the past few days, House Speaker Paul Ryan has thrown cold water on those bills [Matt: i.e., the ones Collins got Senate leaders to promise to pass to stabilize health insurance markets] and the White House started to back away from its commitment. House Republicans have warned that there aren’t the votes in the lower chamber to pass the bills Collins supports.
Collins has in turn started to leave herself room to oppose the final tax plan that House and Senate negotiators are working on, if her demands are not met.
This path to failure has become clear: Jones wins in Alabama on Tuesday, the tax negotiations drag on long enough for him to be seated, and Collins flips to a “no” vote because her extracted concessions on health care fall through.
For my part, I think it's noteworthy how much Jones talked about CHIP. Obviously it'd be silly to say that CHIP was the main issue in this race. But Jones did want to inject some policy substantive into his pitch, and the ground he chose to pick that fight on was CHIP — and it was an issue that succeeded at inspiring the base to come out and fight without being off-putting to crossover voters.
Just a reminder that Republicans in Washington are putting themselves out on some dangerous policy limbs.
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