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The new Democrat argument on tax reform will be a tough one for Trump to deal with

Since the president hasn’t released his tax returns, we don’t know how he’d benefit from any changes to the tax code.

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

President Donald Trump’s tax reform effort has many problems. The issue itself is fiendishly complex, affecting a host of different interest groups who are already lobbying furiously. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s framework for a bill is tremendously unpopular in the Senate. And the president himself has sent mixed signals, lately saying he wants to give health care another shot rather than moving on.

This morning the New York Times’ Alan Rappeport points out another serious problem — President Trump’s refusal to release own his tax returns.

As Rappeport writes, Democrats have lately been citing the lack of disclosure of the president’s tax returns as a justification for opposing any GOP bill sight unseen. “If he doesn’t release his returns, it is going to make it much more difficult to get tax reform done.” (As a reminder, Trump has claimed that he doesn’t want to release his tax returns simply because he is under audit — a justification that makes no sense.)

In part, this is a handy political talking point that’s a convenient excuse for opposition, and a way to mobilize the liberal base, tens of thousands of whom marched at rallies last weekend calling for the returns’ disclosure.

It’s also a bit of a win-win politically for Democrats — either Trump finally makes his tax returns public despite his clear reluctance to in an effort to kick-start the process, or Democrats hammer him for what he might be hiding.

Still, this Democratic argument is most effective because of its substantive strength. Fundamentally, they are asking for more insight into how the president of the United States might benefit from sweeping tax code changes he hopes to sign into law.

That seems like a very reasonable ask, and if Trump doesn’t grant it, it will be easy for Democrats to characterize him as recalcitrant. So maybe he will give in out of his desire to finally get a legislative win. But maybe not:

A wacky Supreme Court idea for President Trump

Our daily politics news roundup will check in on several other big stories, so here’s a look at what else is in the news.

In others news, Chris Ruddy — a close friend of the president who founded the conservative website NewsMax and was last seen advocating for a major expansion of Medicaid — is now publicly floating some more idiosyncratic strategic advice.

In an interview with Business Insider’s Allan Smith, Ruddy said that Trump should try to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with … Barack Obama’s failed nominee to the court, Merrick Garland.

“I think it would be a huge move and a sign for Trump that he's willing to break through the political ice,” Ruddy said.

It would indeed be a huge move — and one sure to provoke massive backlash from the socially conservative right, who would view Trump as betraying them on one of their most important issues. It’s very questionable whether Mitch McConnell would betray his base by advancing such a nominee through the GOP-controlled Senate. Plus, the move wouldn’t even earn Trump all that much goodwill from Democrats, who would cheerfully pocket this concession and likely go right on opposing him on other topics. So it’s very difficult to imagine it happening.

Still, it’s worth keeping in mind that if a pro-Roe v. Wade justice does retire — whether that’s Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, or Anthony Kennedy — Trump will be faced with a choice far more consequential than the Gorsuch nomination was. Because if Trump appoints another staunch conservative to one of those seats, then Roe, the decision preventing states from banning abortions, could well be overturned, with massive consequences for women nationwide.

This would be the ultimate prize for social conservatives. But it’s an outcome a city guy with at least some past track record of socially liberal views like Donald Trump is could well blanche at, and seek to avoid if he can. So it’s worth noting that at least one trusted friend of his is counseling caution here.

Today’s top politics reads

  • US military considers shooting down North Korea missile tests, sources say”: “The US military is considering shooting down North Korean missile tests as a show of strength to Pyongyang, two sources briefed on the planning have told the Guardian. … Experts and former officials said shooting down a North Korean missile during a test would risk an escalation that Washington might not be able to control, which would risk potentially devastating consequences to allies South Korea and Japan.” —Spencer Ackerman and Justin McCurry, The Guardian
  • Federal judge orders Kobach to share documents from his meeting with Trump”: “A federal magistrate judge has ordered Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to disclose documents outlining a strategic plan he presented to then-President-elect Donald Trump in November, a decision that could have ramifications from Topeka to Washington. … The American Civil Liberties Union sought the documents’ disclosure as part of an ongoing lawsuit over a Kansas law that requires voters to provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport, when they register to vote.” —Bryan Lowry, Kansas City Star
  • Everything you need to know about the Georgia 6 Special Election” “In the last nine polls taken, Ossoff is averaging 42 percent of the vote. And even if undecided voters are allocated proportionally among the candidates based on the percentage of the vote each has now, Ossoff only gets to 46 percent — short of a majority. That said, special election polls (like all polls) are inexact. … The average of polls is consistent with Ossoff getting between 38 percent and 54 percent.” —Harry Enten and Ryan Matsumoto, FiveThirtyEight

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