Reduced Senate majority compounds problems for Trump
Wafer-thin majority could have implications for president’s tax-reform bill
Donald Trump: Republicans will now find it even harder to get legislation through the Senate if they are forced to rely on party members to push through votes Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
The stunning victory of the Democratic candidate in Alabama’s Senate race this week may produce headaches for Donald Trump, but it has more immediate implications. Doug Jones’d victory has reduced the Republican Party’s wafer-thing majority in the Senate even further, from 52-48 to 51- 49.
And that could have potential implications for the president’s tax reform bill.
Even before the Alabama election shock, Republicans were struggling to push through legislation with a simple majority.
Remember John McCain’s late-night impassioned speech in the senate in July when he refused to vote for his party’s healthcare plan, sinking the repeal and replace of Obamacare?
Republicans will now find it even harder to get legislation through the chamber as they are forced to rely on party members to push through votes. A slimmer majority gives recalcitrant Republicans more leverage to demand concessions.
Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the senate, wasted no time in asking Congress to delay a vote on the tax reform package until after Mr Jones is sworn-in in the new year.
However, this seems unlikely. Mitch McConnell pointed out that the timetable had been set out before the election, whatever its outcome.
Negotiations between the two houses of Congress on an agreed tax package have been continuing in recent days, with president Trump hosting top congressional figures for lunch at the White House yesterday before delivering his remarks to the nation, defending the tax reform plan.
Among possible changes that have been flagged are a cut in the top income tax rate from 39.6 per cent to 37 per cent, and a possible compromise corporate tax figure of 21 per cent. Changes to mortgage interest relief are also being mooted.
With votes in the House and the Senate pencilled in for next week, Republicans are hoping that the bill will be delivered to the White House for signing before Congress breaks up at the end of next week. After a year of failed legislative initiatives, a finished tax reform package will be a welcome Christmas present for many Republicans.