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House Republican: Donors are helping driving push for tax breaks

Why are House Republicans pushing a tax plan the public doesn't want? Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) effectively gave away the game this morning.
Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., leaves the House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club on Nov. 3, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP)
Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., leaves the House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club on Nov. 3, 2015.

At first blush, the Republicans' push for massive tax breaks, disproportionately benefiting the wealthy, seems politically unwise. The American mainstream isn't exactly clamoring for the GOP tax plan -- polls show broad public opposition to the Republican proposal -- and no party ever became more popular by doing something unpopular.

What's more, the country can't afford the Republican plan; there's no reason to believe it'd make a significant difference on the economy; and it's having the unintended effect of dividing the GOP at a difficult time.

So why focus so much time, energy, and resources in the idea? Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) spoke to The Hill this morning and gave away the game.

A House Republican lawmaker acknowledged on Tuesday that he's facing pressure from donors to ensure the GOP tax-reform proposal gets done.Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) had been describing the flurry of lobbying from special interests seeking to protect favored tax provisions when a reporter asked if donors are happy with the tax-reform proposal."My donors are basically saying, 'Get it done or don't ever call me again,' " Collins replied.

I suppose Collins deserves some credit for being so publicly candid. Traditionally, members of Congress have been more restrained when talking about using their offices to pursue political donors' goals, but Collins, a prominent Donald Trump ally, is taking a refreshing approach. He's admitting that he's concerned about the pressure he's under from campaign contributors.

The trouble, of course, is that his donors' expectations and his constituents' interests are very likely to conflict. The New York Republican's donors want the congressman and his colleagues to "get it done," referring to the massive tax-cut package, but in order to pay for the policy, the House GOP plan intends to scrap state-and-local-tax deductions and other popular tax provisions that New Yorkers rely on.

The challenge for Collins is pretty straightforward: will his donors' demands lead him to vote for a Republican plan that would effectively raise middle-class taxes in his own congressional district?

The GOP bill is likely to reach the House floor as early as next week. Watch this space.

Postscript: If this dynamic seems familiar, it's because Republican donors' demands helped drive the party's health care crusade, too. Vox had this report in September: "The evidence that the GOP is trying to please donors here is adding up. An anonymous Republican senator told Politico that McConnell might be returning to health care to show donors 'that the Senate GOP tried again.' Senate Republicans were warned at a private meeting that fundraising was slow because donors were disappointed at their lack of accomplishments, per the New York Times. And in recent months, senators “faced an unrelenting barrage of confrontations with some of their closest supporters, donors and friends” over Obamacare repeal’s failure, according to the Washington Post."