After a prolonged fight over who should serve as speaker, the new House Republican majority finally got to work yesterday. GOP lawmakers could’ve picked anything for their first bill, but fulfilling a campaign promise, they went with a poorly named proposal they called the “Family and Small Business Taxpayer Protection Act.” The New York Times reported overnight:
House Republicans, in one of their first legislative moves, voted to cut funding for the Internal Revenue Service on Monday, as conservative lawmakers try to kneecap President Biden’s $80 billion overhaul of the beleaguered agency.
The final tally was 221 to 210 — split cleanly along partisan lines — with a handful of members from both parties missing the vote.
To the extent that Republicans want to give the appearance of caring about governing, it’s important to emphasize that these proceedings were largely intended as theater: The new GOP majority knows this bill will be ignored in the Democratic-led Senate, and wouldn’t receive President Joe Biden’s signature. As we’ve discussed, this vote was an example of chest-thumping posturing, not serious legislating.
But what struck me as especially interesting about yesterday’s developments on the House floor was how excited Democrats seemed to be about the Republicans’ bill.
As a matter of Political Strategy 101, it stands to reason that the new GOP majority, when choosing their very first legislative effort, would pick not only something real and meaningful, but also a bill that would put their Democratic opponents on the defensive. Ideally, the Republicans’ first proposal might even try to divide Democrats.
What the GOP ended up doing instead, however, had the opposite effect: Democrats were every bit as interested in talking about the Republican measure as Republicans themselves, if not more so.
After all, the “Family and Small Business Taxpayer Protection Act” would do several notable things, including:
- Target 87,000 IRS agents who don’t exist
- Increase the deficit by roughly $114 billion over the next decade
- Help tax cheats
- Undermine law enforcement
The 2024 elections are obviously on the horizon, but this is the sort of bill that Democrats might very well use as the basis for attack ads. Indeed, it’s rather amazing that many Republicans spent last week whining incessantly about the need for a balanced budget, and their very first bill would deliberately make the deficit bigger, not smaller, in order to help those who cheat on their taxes.
Is it any wonder Democrats — from the White House to Capitol Hill — were tripping over each other to condemn the proposal?