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On taxes, do Republicans know what they've done?

There's ample reason to wonder whether congressional Republicans fully understand what they've done on tax policy.
Image: US President Donald J. Trump meets with members of the House Ways and Means Committee
epa06228292 US President Donald J. Trump (C) meets with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R), Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member...

As part of the Republican victory lap on tax breaks, Donald Trump singled out House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) for his work on the legislation. The president said the Texas congressman is a "very special man" who knows the tax policy "inside out and backwards."

In theory, that would make sense. After all, Brady was one of the principal architects of the GOP plan -- one of the so-called "Big Six" -- so it stands to reason that he'd know as much as anyone about the legislation he helped write.

But HuffPost's Matt Fuller this week asked several House Republicans, including Brady, some basic details about their party's tax plan, and they appeared to struggle with the question.

To be clear, we were just looking for seven figures: 10 percent, 12 percent, 22 percent, 24 percent, 32 percent, 35 percent and 37 percent. We were not looking for congressional representatives to display some savant-like ability and provide the income thresholds for each bracket. We just wanted to see if Republicans knew this one simple element of a bill they were rushing into law.They didn't.

This wasn't a comprehensive survey, but Fuller did ask 17 GOP members if they can identify the tax brackets in their plan, and none of them -- including Kevin Brady -- could answer the question. Eventually, HuffPost talked to Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), who knew the information.

Of course, 1 out of 18 isn't great. (My personal favorite was House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black of Tennessee, who said she did know the brackets, but wouldn't say what they were.)

Look, I can appreciate why some will dismiss a report like this as a "gotcha" story, intended more to embarrass than inform. But Republicans spent six-and-a-half weeks overhauling the tax code of the world's largest economy; they did so without any substantive legislative hearings or input from subject-matter experts; and they proceeded while ignoring the data from Congress' own Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office.

It's against this backdrop that there's reason to wonder whether congressional Republicans fully understand what they've done. When many of them can't even name the new brackets of their policy -- according to GOP leaders, changing the brackets was one the principal reasons for tackling the issue in the first place -- questions about their competence are inevitable.

Indeed, the HuffPost report wasn't the only one to cause alarm. CNBC's John Harwood sat down last week with Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a prominent member of the House Appropriations Committee, who seemed completely lost when asked about the tax plan he supports.

"I can't tell you I'm a deep economic thinker," Cole said while rejecting the consensus views of actual economists.

Alas, on Capitol Hill, he apparently has quite a bit of company.