Of course, BAT fans are gearing up as well and promise to be equally aggressive. The day after the AAP roll out, the American Made Coalition launched, with an eye toward helping Ryan’s office spread the good word. “It takes time to educate both policy makers and businesses on what’s on the table,” said Brian Reardon, an adviser to the group.
There is no place for subtlety in this war. Part of BAT supporters’ argument is that, without the provision, tax overhaul will implode altogether. Message: Get on board or kiss your once-in-a-lifetime reform opportunity good-bye.
It’s a question of Senate math. To pass with a simple majority (and avoid a filibuster by Democrats), the GOP’s plan must go through under the procedure known as reconciliation. But to qualify for reconciliation, the package--which slashes both corporate and upper-bracket taxes--cannot blow a hole in the long-term budget. Without the $1 trillion in revenues from BAT, say advocates, there’s no way that hole can be plugged.
“This is the only way at these rates and keeping things revenue neutral,” insisted a senior Republican aide. There is no other viable option. Period. End of story.
But anti-BATers are eyeing a different Senate equation. To amass even a simple majority of votes, the BAT can lose only two of the 52 Republican members. (Unless Democrats cross the aisle, of course.) In addition to Cotton’s and Perdue’s open hostility, Senators John Boozman, Mike Rounds, John Cornyn, Tim Scott, and Mike Lee have all expressed reservations. "I have real concerns that this piece of the House blueprint will cause more disruption than necessary,” Lee said. “Will the dollar suddenly shoot up by 20 percent? Will U.S. manufacturers have to redo their international supply chains? These are all open questions.”
With the provision’s Senate prospects iffy, there’s less incentive for House conservatives to support something that smells even faintly like a tax. Both the current chairman of the Freedom Caucus, Mark Meadows, and the former chairman, Jim Jordan, have said they’d like reform done without a BAT.
“My reasoning is very basic,” Jordan told me. “Why in the world would we want to add another revenue stream?” You can debate the impact on exchange rates and purchasing power all day, said Jordan, but that doesn’t address many conservatives’ core objection. “We come at it from fundamental perspective,” he said. “The idea that you’re going to add an entirely new tax is a big problem.”
(BAT fans, for the record, dispute that this is a new tax. It is, they insist, replacing the existing system with an entirely new, far superior one that must be looked at, as Reardon put it, “holistically.”)
The only thing everyone can agree on is that this will be a long, ugly fight. If Trump drops his tariff idea and embraces BAT, it could boost the cause. But even then, he’d need to do major arm-twisting to get Senate skeptics on board (especially with the likes of Walmart and the Kochs twisting the other arm.) Like it or not, this is what the political big leagues are like: slow, messy, and infuriating.
The up side for Trump: He’ll have time to throw a lot more pep rallies on this topic before anything gets decided.