Republicans Blaming Trump For Declining Support For Tax Bill

Republicans are blaming the President for the fading popularity of the tax reform law passed in December. It's more complicated than that.

As I noted yesterday, public support for the tax reform bill passed last December has been steadily declining in recent months, upending Republican hopes that the issue would be one of the things they could rely on in the efforts to hold on to control of Congress in this year’s midterm elections. Today, the Washington Examiner reports that Republicans on Capitol Hill are focusing the blame for that decline on President Trump, his Administration, and the erratic messaging coming out of the White House:

President Trump is undermining voter support for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act with erratic messaging after it was gaining popularity, alarming Republicans counting on the law to save the party’s vulnerable House majority.

Senior Republicans are declining to publicly finger Trump for the heralded tax overhaul’s sagging approval ratings. Views of the law steadily climbed during the first two months of the year on the strength of a unified push from the White House and Capitol Hill ahead of the midterm.

Privately, Republicans complain that the president’s sudden shift to tariffs, with threats of trade wars, distracted from the positive impacts of $1.3 trillion in tax cuts and allowed Democrats to regain the upper hand. Concluding that Trump is unreliable, Republicans say it’s their responsibility to turn public opinion around.

“People aren’t talking about it enough, and when people aren’t talking about it enough, that’s a problem,” Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Tuesday, of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. “Our guys need to be talking about the tax bill more; that’s one of the things that I talked about in conference this morning.”

Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration were on the same page the past few days, promoting the first rewrite of the U.S. tax code to coincide with the annual deadline to pay state and federal income taxes. Vice President Mike Pence has stayed focused on the tax law, campaigning for it during a series of town hall events.

But Trump, the Republican Party’s loudest megaphone, is a mercurial politician. He signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in late December, and spent January and February touting the law, taking every opportunity to credit accelerating economic growth, employee bonuses, new jobs, and wage gains to the overhaul.

That lasted until early March, when the president veered off script to propose steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Trump said the country was suffering from unfair trade practices. Since then, the economy has continued to hum, but approval ratings for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act have eroded.

n a fresh NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey conducted jointly by Democratic and Republican pollsters, the law was underwater: 27 percent approved, 36 percent disapproved. Those results track with private data Republicans have monitored, sparking anxiety about their chances of surviving a tough November election with their House majority intact.

“Republicans have a lot of work in front of them to make sure people understand the benefits of the tax bill, and nobody is going to be driving this but them. They need to understand that it’s not just — we’ve done this, let’s go on to the next thing,” said David Winston, a GOP pollster who advises House and Senate Republicans.

“The signature achievement for Congressional Republicans for this Congress will have been the tax bill — no matter what else they do,” he added.

Based just on the events of the past several weeks, there is no small degree of merit in the criticism of Congressional Republicans that is being directed at the White House. Rather than talking up the talk bill at a recent speech in West Virginia that was supposed to be devoted to that very topic, Trump literally threw away the script of the speech that had been written for him to deliver that day and went off on a long, confusing rant that harkened back to the campaign, Hillary Clinton, and the comment he made about Mexican ‘rapists’ during his very first speech as a Presidential candidate. Additionally, during this time Trump has used his Twitter account to rant against enemies real and perceived and to engage in attacks on the Mueller investigation, the F.B.I., and the Justice Department that have become increasingly unhinged. His White House meanwhile, has done nothing to advance talk regarding the tax bill and its alleged benefits and has seemingly ignored the issue for the past several weeks at least. Given all of that, it’s easy to see why Republicans on Capitol Hill, and Republican candidates for office, would be upset with the President and his advisors for the extent to which they’ve managed to divert public attention away from the one issue that Republicans want to rely on the most in the upcoming elections.

Notwithstanding all of this, it strikes me that Republicans are placing far too much of the blame for their predicament on the White House and not focusing on other problems they face with regard to the tax bill. For one thing, while it’s true that the White House has basically pushed the tax reform bill to the side over the past several weeks and months, the same can be said about Republicans in general. During the recent Special Election in Pennsylvania, for example, both the candidate and the outside groups that were advertising on his behalf largely abandoned their tax cut message in the weeks leading up to the election. To some degree, it appears that this is because they were finding that the issue was not resonating with voters in the way that they hoped it would. Additionally, much of the good press that the new law received in the initial wake of its passage in the form of announcement of wage increases and bonuses for workers has ended and it has become apparent that much of the savings corporations are starting to see from the bill is being recycled into stock buybacks rather than wage increases, new hiring, or expansion. Finally, polling has shown that public support for the tax law has declined steadily since December. Given all of this, the reasons that the tax bill has faded from public consciousness is due to much more than just the diversions of the Trump Administration.

Rather than simply blaming all of this on Trump, Republicans ought to be looking more deeply at the reasons why the tax reform bill is proving to be an ineffective rallying tool around the country. Perhaps if they did they might figure out that relying on this one measure to save them in November is misplaced.



FILED UNDER: 2018 Election, Congress, Taxes, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. gVOR08 says:

    Awwww. They wrote a giveaway to their wealthy donors and threw in just enough temporary middle class relief to pretend they were cutting for everybody. And people aren’t buying it. The poor babies.

  2. Kathy says:

    I don’t disagree with Doug’s observations, but I find it a very small, positive sign that some in the GOP are blaming the Creature in the Oval Office.

    Let me reiterate it’s a very small sign. You need a magnifying glass to find it.

  3. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: “Blame”. I don’t think that word means what you think it means. (TM “The Princess Bride”). Unfortunately I don’t think it means the 2019 Republican Reps and Senators are gaining the upper hand on Trump. I suspect it means that the soon to be 2019 ex-Reps and ex-Senators are finally realizing that they are doomed and their voters love Trump but not them. Many of them are realizing what sentient creatures have realized since the 1970’s: Trump never loves you back. They have wrapped themselves around the Orange Baboon only to find that he belittles them and mocks their “accomplishments” and sells them out if he thinks it will win five minutes in his news cycle game.

    This is why Schadenfreude is a loser’s emotion. Yes, those Republican Reps and Senators in close races who supported Trump will find that their hopes were forlorn and their dreams have crashed against his contempt and indifference. But then they will be gone, replaced in the primary by fools even more Trumpian. Sure some of these angry overweight pasty white men will be defeated by Dems, but overall, it is going to be close.

    So my prediction: If the Dems take the house it will be by a few seats. And they won’t take the Senate. This will be at best a normal off year election pickup. I just look at Trumps solid 40% approval rating and don’t see any major trends. His core is still there and, sure, they won’t turn out in the numbers they do for a Presidential election but any that do turn out will pull the Repub lever. And the Dems will not take the Senate. They may even lose a seat or two.

    I will be so happy to be wrong that if anyone wants to come to the Baltimore / DC area to gloat I will be happy to buy them a beer at the greatest beer bar in the world (Lure’s Bar and Grille) or a whiskey at the best whiskey bar in Baltimore (Birds of a Feather). Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to sit there and be called an idiot because the Blue Wave had washed over the entire Congress.

  4. Kathy says:


    I said the sign is small. and when you think about it, a microscope is only a bunch of magnifying glasses focusing on each other.

    I don’t think that word means what you think it means. (TM “The Princess Bride”).

    That may be the one reference to a movie I’ve never seen that I do recognize.

  5. Rick Zhang says:

    It’s ultimately a policy problem, but they’re framing it as a marketing failure.

    You can only put so much lipstick on a pig. You can only fool the people for so long.

    It ultimately won’t be the winning pitch Republicans think it will be. Let’s not let them know about that just yet, so that they keep wasting money.

  6. Joe says:

    @Kathy, see the movie.

  7. Kathy says:


    Why? I already recognize the reference 🙂

  8. Liberal Capitalist says:


    Why? I already recognize the reference

    Seriously, see the movie. There is SO much more

    “Have fun storming the castle!”

    When I was your age, television was called books.” …

    “Life isn’t fair, it’s just fairer than death, that’s all.” …

    “Just because you’re beautiful and perfect, it’s made you conceited.” …

    “Inconceivable!” …

    “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!”


    A shared experience defines a culture. Part of our problem today is that there is less shared culture, and easy ability to ignore the shared experience.

  9. Kylopod says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    Seriously, see the movie.

    I concur. One of the reasons to see the movie is that it’s a true classic–I don’t know if I’ve ever encountered anyone who’s seen it and disliked it. Second, it’s one of a kind: I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a film quite like it before or since. The first time I saw it, I was 11, and at the time it was to me just another swashbuckling fairy-tale adventure. But at bottom it’s a sly, clever comedy. When it first came out it performed only modestly at the box office, but it has since gone on to become one of the most quoted movies of all time. Even your examples don’t begin to scratch the surface. Off the top of my head I can think of at least a half-dozen more–“Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something”; “Your friend is only mostly dead”; “Mawidge is what bwings us togethuh tonite”; “It’s not my fault being the biggest and strongest. I don’t even exercise”; and of course “As you wish”–need I go on?

  10. rachel says:

    @Kylopod: “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia,’ but only slightly less well known is this: ‘Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line. Ahh-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-hah! Ahh-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-hah! Ahh-ha-ha-ha–” [Falls over dead]

  11. Kari Q says:

    “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia,’

    If only people would watch The Princess Bride more, maybe we could stop getting involved in land wars in Asia. Korea. Vietnam. Iraq. Now we’re looking at Iran and/or Korea again. It hasn’t worked before, it won’t work this time.

  12. de stijl says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    Seriously, see the movie. There is SO much more

    This is the wrong way to convince people.

    Cajoling / demanding is never received well, despite your good intentions.

    Hint. Mention. Influence. You can even assert your love, but demanding compliance is a step too far.

    Kathy is fully in charge of Kathy and she will watch whatever she wants to. Recommendations are cool, but be respectful.

    (Meta: giving advice to people who are not optimally giving advice is strange. And I’m not trying to be dickish, but it reads that way anyway. I’m sorry, Liberal Capitalist.)

    A shared experience defines a culture.

    That does not extend to subjective matters where mileage may vary.

    I kinda like The Princess Bride, but do not love it. It’s very clever, but not really interesting to me beyond amusement and wordplay. Wallace Shawn is always a good addition to any movie in my book. (I’d love to see him play against type one time, though.)

    I love a whole bunch of stuff you hate, or meh, or like, or love, or dislike. We don’t have to agree on art. I have a metric sh!t tonne of prickly, idiosyncratic opinions. No else has to agree me with me but me.

    Besides, in ’87, Raising Arizona was a waaay better movie and anybody who disagrees is a stone fool. Watch those two movies back to back and tell me I’m wrong!

  13. de stijl says:

    Wallace Shawn is always a good addition to any movie in my book. (I’d love to see him play against type one time, though.)

    My brain just kicked in – Mr. Robot Wallace Shawn as The Subtle Interrogator.

  14. de stijl says:

    1987 was a very good year.

    Mandinka is a song by Sinéad O’Connor from her 1987 album The Lion and the Cobra.

  15. de stijl says:

    The Replacements’ Pleased To Meet Me was 1987.

    Two of the best pop / rock songs ever written:

    Skyway and Can’t Hardly Wait

  16. Kit says:

    I’m a bit late on this one, but I feel that people have overlooked one aspect. The rich got their tax cuts. Polls are showing the base to be giddy with enthusiasm for the GOP. So, where’s the problem? The problem is with the rich. They crave the deep respect and reverence that their Randian world view assures them is their birth right. The money is nice but where was the thank you? If even the proles see the tax cut as BS, then how do they view the rich? As just another part of the team helping to flush the country down the toilet? Circling the bowl with the other turds is hardly the warm and fuzzy feeling that was expected in this moment of triumph. So time to start leaning on those politicians to start earning their keep and to get the good news out.

  17. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    My fear with Dennison was always that he would do exactly what he said.
    Imagine if he had actually gotten Congress to pass the big fat Middle Class Tax Cut that he campaigned on? One that would actually hurt rich guys like him? Suddenly average people would have more money in their pockets and we’d be getting back to a demand economy. IT WOULD BE WILDLY POPULAR!!!
    Instead Dennison and his Republicanist friends arranged for a trillion dollar give-away to the wealthy and corporations.
    Gee, I wonder what went wrong? It must be the messaging….

  18. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:
    Also…Dennison promised big beautiful health care that would cover everyone and be better and cheaper than Obamacare. The truth is that the sabotage Republicanists have committed against Obamacare will increase premiums on the individual market by close to 20%.

    The best thing that could happen for this country is if Dems take the House and Senate. Dennison doesn’t care what he signs…he will sign any bill they put in front of him.
    We could get single-payer, and get the middle class a real tax cut.

  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: There is a lot more than that in it. Campy as all get out but plenty fun.

  20. Andrew says:

    There goes the GOP blaming their problems on poor people, again.

  21. Kylopod says:

    @de stijl:

    Besides, in ’87, Raising Arizona was a waaay better movie and anybody who disagrees is a stone fool. Watch those two movies back to back and tell me I’m wrong!

    I’ve seen both movies multiple times and I disagree. And I speak as someone who really likes Raising Arizona and in general am a huge Coen Brothers fan.

    (On a separate note, if there’s ever going to be a movie about the Trump saga, the Coens would be perfect to direct it. John Goodman, their most-used actor, would probably make a great Trump too. The Coens do something better than any other filmmakers I’ve ever seen, which is make intelligent movies about stupid people. Fargo, for example, is basically a chronicle of dumb criminals making one dumb decision after another, yet the movie still manages to be believable–and hilariously funny. I’ve been seeing people invoke a lot of movie and TV references when talking about what’s happening in Trumpworld right now–The Godfather, Tarantino, The Sopranos–but generally those concern characters who are relatively smart. Nobody portrays epic stupidity with more wit and intelligence than the Coen Brothers.)

  22. de stijl says:


    Okay, I totally appreciate your comment. But why are you saying:

    I’ve seen both movies multiple times and I disagree.

    when you you’re only talking up Coen Bros movies in your follow-up? I think you forgot the “but…” part of your argument.


    Way back when I attended the premiere of Barton Fink at the Walker. Here’s the embarrassing bit. One of the Coen brothers was the MC / host. But I can’t tell you which one. I’ve totally forgotten; that’s so sad.

    And I got called on, but asked a stupid, technical question about how he (which one? who knows!?!) got the technically excellent pus to dribble out of John Goodman’s ear when he was bugging out in Act III.

    I’m a sad, sad schmuck.

    I still use “It’s got that Barton Fink feeling”quote (in context) a few times a month.

  23. Kylopod says:

    @de stijl:

    Okay, I totally appreciate your comment. But why are you saying … when you you’re only talking up Coen Bros movies in your follow-up?

    Why should I sit here trying to defend the relative merits of two movies we both liked? That’s a YMMV if I’ve ever heard one. Now, it’s different if I’m trying to convince someone to watch a movie they’ve never seen before, like Kathy here. That’s all I really can do: get a person to watch the film, then they’re free to make up their own mind about it. But I’m not going to argue you into recognizing TPB as the better of the two films. You think convincing people in politics is hard even when you’ve got all the facts on your side? How does that translate into convincing someone of something that is in fact totally subjective?

    I certainly have made my share of TPB references (here, for example), but one problem is that making TPB references is itself a kind of cliche in the political-junkie world. You know how many pundits over the years have invoked “I don’t think that word means what you think it means”? It’s up there with “you can’t handle the truth” and “show me the money” in the department of overused movie quotes.

    Anyway, I love the Coen Brothers more than I love Rob Reiner, whose TPB is a masterpiece but whose overall filmography is more mixed. In contrast, I enjoy almost everything the Coens did, even their lesser movies, and I just think their overall body of work is more impressive than Reiner’s. But Raising Arizona, the film that introduced me to their work when I was just 10, isn’t their best film; I’d rank it below Fargo and Big Lebowski. In fact Lebowski is a film I’ve often compared in my mind with TPB, in that it was a movie that earned a “meh” reaction from critics and moviegoers when it first came out then grew over time into this huge cult phenomenon where people quote from it left and right, even making a sort of quasi-religion out of “Dudism.”

    One other observation I’d make about the Coens: their earlier films tend to be more overtly weird and surreal. Barton Fink is probably their weirdest movie to date. It almost approaches David Lynch territory. I’m still not sure I fully understood it. Arizona isn’t far behind in strangeness but it’s counterbalanced by a certain cutesiness that made it easier for mainstream audiences to take. But ever since Fargo they’ve seemed to rein in this tendency. All their movies are quirky to one degree or another, and even in their more conventional fare they always manage to stick in one or two “WTF?” moments (for example, the guy in the bear suit in True Grit). Lebowski had those druggish dream sequences but mostly stayed within traditional boundaries; certainly it didn’t leave viewers wondering what the hell was going on.

  24. de stijl says:


    What I liked most about Barton Fink is that we were never safe in deciding who the protagonist actually is.

    That, and the dialog.

    Fave Coen Bros movie? Why?

    Fave Coen Bros scene? Why?

    Fave Coen bros character? Why?

    Is there a justifiable reason to plug The Hudsucker Proxy?

  25. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    Fave Coen Bros movie? Why?

    Ooh. Hard question. No Country For Old Men just because of Josh Brolin’s character?

    If pushed to the brink, I would go with Raising Arizona simply because of Nathan Arizona, Sr. (aka Nathan Huffheins)

    Would you shop at a store called Unpainted Huffheins?

    If a frog had wings, it wouldn’t bump its ass a- hoppin’. Look, it is exactly 8:45 in the PM. I’ll be down at that store in exactly 12 hours to kick me some butt. Or my name ain’t Nathan Arizona!

    Or best of all,

    I don’t know – they were jammies! They had Yodas ‘n’ shit on ’em!

    And Randall Cobb’s:

    Price. A fair price. That’s not what you say it is, and it’s not what I say it is… It’s what the market will bear. Now there’s people – and I know ’em – who’ll pay a lot more than $25,000 for a healthy baby. Why, I myself fetched $30,000 on the black market. And that was in 1954 dollars.

    The: And that was in 1954 dollars. sells it.

    Hi, Ed, Gale, Evelle (why did not William Forsythe become a big thing. He is very good in everything.) Nathan Jr – or Nathan Jrs, I should say. The baby wrangling bit when Hi is trying to surreptitiously quietly corral Nathan Jr. is epic. You gotta get ’em dip-tet boosters yearly or else they’ll develop lockjaw and night vision.

    So much awesome. It has to be Raising Arizona.

    Fave Coen Bros scene? Why?

    Pending. I have to think this through.

    (BTW the FX Fargo series is on the table since they exec produced.)

  26. de stijl says:

    Fave Coen Bros scene? Why?

    The long shot of Jerry Lundegaard (William Macy) whaling on his own snow covered windshield with a scraper because he was just humiliated and dismissed.

    He is an utterly sh1tty person / character, but you feel him then. And the long shot is very Zhang Yimou Raise the Red Lantern– almost symmetrical but off-kilter.

    I don’t really hate Jerry – I pity him.

    Second choice from the same movie:

    Marge and Norm chilling in bed talking about duck stamps and Norm’s chances this year. Perhaps the most realistic domestic scene ever on film. Which is weird – “real” and Coen Bros

  27. de stijl says:

    Fave Coen bros character? Why?

    You’re Mr. Lebowski, I’m The Dude. Or His Dudeness…Duder…El Duderino, if you’re not into that whole brevity thing.


    Because “Careful man! There’s a beverage here.”

    That’s why.

    Stupid little throw-away lines make us love stories and characters. Writers need to create more spaces where they just let their characters just be instead of forcing the next story beat.