Calmes: GOP doesn’t care if inflation act would help voters

In a polarized America, you don’t get that kind of agreement on a lot of things.

Three-fourths of voters support allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prices with drug companies and capping older Americans’ drug bills at $2,000 a year. In the same Morning Consult/Politico poll, a similar proportion favor cutting the federal deficit by up to $300 billion. About 3 in 5 voters support a minimum corporate tax rate, tax credits to encourage renewable energy and an extension of health subsidies for those in need.

All this and more includes the Anti-Inflation Act. So, Republicans, what’s not to like?

Spotted portrait illustration of Jackie Calmes

opinion columnist

Jackie Calmes

Jackie Calmes takes a critical look at the national political scene. She has decades of experience reporting on the White House and Congress.

The 730-page bill may or may not deliver on the promise of inflation implied by the Democrats’ politically self-serving title, but the measure would do a lot that Americans — including Republican voters — like a lot of, surveys show. But not a single Republican in the Senate voted in favor of the package on Sunday. Not. one. Don’t expect much different outcome on Friday when the Democrat-controlled House is expected to pass the bill and send it to President Biden to sign the bill.

That Congress would pass a package so loaded with popular cheering on a strictly partisan vote is another sad reflection of the state of American politics, and of the Republican Party in particular. How is a nation of 330 million supposed to solve problems when one of the two major parties is anti-political and uncompromising?

Republicans just don’t want to let the Democrats score by passing a signature piece of Biden’s domestic political agenda, regardless of the benefits to their constituents, especially so close to the midterm elections. Additionally, in a party where compromise is often a shooting offense, Republican lawmakers who are crossing lines to support a Democratic priority have good reason to fear dragging a challenger into the next Republican primary.

People inclined to whataboutism and bothsidesism might disagree, well, during the Trump years, Democrats unanimously rejected the Republicans’ signature achievement: the 2017 law that cut taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals. But this package was rejected by most Americans by a 2-to-1 margin when it was passed, and it remains unpopular. (Republicans, who are now slamming the Democrats’ bill as budget explosives — which it isn’t — won’t acknowledge this: Their 2017 tax cuts are expected to increase debt by as much as $2 trillion by 2025.)

I’m old enough to remember when the Republicans called themselves the Party of Ideas. Now they are mainly culture warriors. Proposing policies that help people and address chronic domestic issues is no longer their forte, to say the least.

What do they promise should they gain control of Congress? investigations of Department of Justice and the FBI, Hunter Biden and anthony fauci, all promising to be as lengthy, costly and unproductive as their Benghazi investigations of the Obama years.

When news broke three months ago that the right-wing majority in the Supreme Court would overthrow Roe vs. Wade, solemn Conservatives promised a new phase in their “pro-life” advocacy in which they would push for more government support for needy mothers and Children.

But it turns out that most Republicans in Congress are uninterested, even when the initiatives come from their own side. “There are actually a lot of resources for expectant mothers and new mothers” in existing federal programs, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Washington Post dismissively.

Senator Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who talks a lot about a pro-family domestic policy agenda, told the Post that with the end of a federal abortion law, “we see an opportunity… to really move forward.” But when he had the opportunity during the Senate debate To change the anti-inflation law, Rubio proposed not constructive family policies but a cheap salvo in the Kulturkampf — an anti-transgender amendment that mandated that only “biological” women could receive benefits from federal maternal and infant programs.

The only Republican victory in the Senate amendment process? Removed the bill’s provision for a $35 monthly cap for excessive insulin costs. Proud of you?

Regarding climate change, the debate showed that not only do Republicans have no policies to halt the planet’s unsustainable warming, but they also scoff at Democrats who behave as elitists. But even as the Senate debate dragged on, it wasn’t elites across the country who were suffering from the increasingly obvious effects of climate change – extreme and deadly storms, heat waves and droughts. It was Everyman and Everywoman, her voters.

Many Republicans have been vocal in condemning what Idaho Senator Michael D. Crapo has called “an army of IRS agents” that the Democrats’ bill would unleash with an $80 billion injection of the IRS. The infamous Internal Revenue Service is so exhausted by budget cuts that audits of tax evaders are actually rare, and its technology is stuck in the paperwork age.

In the years of Reagan and George HW Bush, Republicans routinely supported giving the IRS more money on deficit-reduction bills because the impartial congressional scorers rightly ruled that such spending was a source of revenue: more money meant more agents , more audits, fewer tax evaders, smaller deficits.

Given the demonization of tax collectors since biblical times, it’s not surprising that the IRS provision is the only element of the Democrats’ bill that doesn’t fare well. But the rest adds up to a popular whole, a landmark feat likely to help the losing Democrats in the midterm elections.

Democrats have been so excited about this and other positive news lately that they’ve come to co-opt the Republicans’ vulgar “let’s go, Brandon” meme applied to the president. You have summoned the superhero Dark Brandon. This Biden is a smasher of Republicans and terrorists, a wielder of powerful pens to sign important laws – and a keeper of (most) campaign promises.

Some popular promises — an expanded child tax credit, universal pre-kindergarten and higher taxes for the wealthy — were left out to please wayward Democratic Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. But here’s something else most Americans agree on, whether in politics or in life: take what you can get.

@jackiekcalmes Calmes: GOP doesn’t care if inflation act would help voters

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