When Ronald Reagan passed his historic tax cut in 1981, he won support from 25 Democrats in the Senate and 113 in the House.
When George W. Bush passed his sweeping tax cut in 2001, he won support from 12 Democrats in the Senate and 28 in the House.
But when President Trump and Republican leadership muscled their respective tax-cut plans through Congress this fall, not a single Democrat in either chamber voted yes. That shutout came even though 12 House Democrats represent districts Trump carried last year, and Democrats in 2018 are defending 10 Senate seats in states the president won.
Many factors contributed to the change. Across all issues, it’s become less common for legislators to vote across party lines than in the Reagan, and even Bush, era. And Trump has less leverage over Democratic legislators than his predecessors did because he has a much lower job-approval rating than either of them, especially among Democratic voters.
But there is a more straightforward reason why not a single Democrat backed the legislation: The GOP not only entirely excluded Democrats from the process of drafting the bills, but the party punished Democratic constituencies—from residents of high-tax states to graduate students—in the bills’ substance. The tax plans represent a political closed circle: bills written solely by Republicans and passed solely by Republican votes that shower their greatest benefits on Republican constituencies. Meanwhile, the biggest losers in the plans are the constituencies of the Democrats who universally opposed them. It’s not just redistribution: The tax bills are also grounded in retribution.