As we head deeper into autumn, it’s federal budget season. Having failed at healthcare reform, Trump has moved on to tax reform as part of his budget regimen, and hopes to push tax cuts through Congress. Of course, liberals are appalled at the tax cuts, which would allegedly enrich the top one percent while doing little or nothing for the middle class and forcing cuts to government services and benefits. Despite insisting that the “average household” will feel a $4,000 net gain under his tax reform, President Trump has been repudiated by mainstream economists. There is widespread consensus that “trickle-down economics,” which was popularized by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, does not work.
If anyone needs political party unity to push through a controversial tax reform plan, it’s Donald Trump. But his party is increasingly dis-unified, even more so than during the healthcare reform debacle. Since the demise of Trump’s Obamacare repeal, we have seen the feud between Trump and U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) flare back up, and tensions rise between Trump and his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. Alarmingly, a heated feud has even erupted between the President and the wife of a U.S. Army soldier who was killed in an ambush in Niger.
And, right as the President is trying to guarantee some GOP loyalty, at a unity luncheon ahead of his push for tax reform, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) is giving him both barrels. The retiring legislator, who will not seek a new term in 2018, has been the most vocal fellow Republican in Washington when it comes to attacking the controversial President. While other GOP Senators have criticized the commander-in-chief, none have been so brazen and explicit as their colleague from Tennessee. John McCain’s recent jab at Trump’s Vietnam-era draft deferments for “bone spurs” in his heels don’t hold a candle to Corker’s assertion that Trump’s presidency is “debasing the nation.”
Corker’s full-frontal assault on the Donald couldn’t come at a worse time for the White House. Trump and co. need to put some points on the board, and Bob Corker is giving the President’s foes in Congress plenty of cover under which to foot-drag and obstruct the White House goals. Democrats are undoubtedly emboldened and reinvigorated by Corker’s open criticism of the President, and see it as a sign that their continued resistance is worthwhile. Each Republican in Congress who breaks ranks and criticizes the President helps inspire Democrats to fight on. Even in deep-red states, voters may come to question Trumpism as more and more fellow Republicans turn tail on Trump’s Oval Office.
For Republicans themselves, Corker’s brave decision to break ranks is refreshing. Now others will feel empowered to speak their minds. Between Corker and McCain, fellow conservatives have plenty of cover to grumble a little more loudly about Trump’s boorish behavior and questionable policy goals. Although a mass GOP revolt is unlikely, especially with Steve Bannon waiting to sic far-right primary opponents on any Republican congressman who criticizes the White House, those from safe districts may begin speaking up. And, as Bannon and Trump face more intra-party fires to put out, they won’t be able to intimidate the rest into keeping quiet.
With economists giving Trump’s tax reform proposal two thumbs down, look for several Republicans in Congress to use the “Corker effect” to duck and dodge the President’s demands for loyalty. Perhaps worst of all, it appears that the President is completely oblivious to his declining fortunes: While his GOP colleagues become emboldened to criticize, he remains focused on trivialities, such as his feud with the NFL.