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Why Gillespie’s Loss May Help Get Tax Cut Passed

An election disaster in Virginia and sexual misconduct allegations that threaten to detail the Republican nominee for Senate in Alabama have led to speculation that the path forward for the GOP’s ambitious tax plan has gotten murkier.

It may have had the opposite effect.

"It doesn't change my reading of the current moment," House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said at a Wednesday event sponsored by the Washington Examiner. "It just emphasizes my reading of the current moment, which is we have a promise to keep … If anything, this just puts more pressure on making sure we follow through."

The Democratic sweep of statewide offices in Virginia and historic gains in the state House of Delegates have Democrats thinking the U.S. House of Representatives might be in play [1] next year.

Republicans insist those results make it imperative not to repeat the mistake of failing to repeal Obamacare.

"If we don't produce, it'll get worse," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told CNN. "The antidote to this problem is to pass a tax cut that Americans believe helps them and their families, to replace a broken health care system with something better. And if we do those things, I think we'll do fine in the fall."

The political picture got grimmer after Tuesday's election with explosive allegations that Roy Moore, a Republican who widely had been expected to win a special election to succeed now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the Senate, had sexual contact with a 14-year-old in 1979 when he was a 32-year-old prosecutor.

Moore has denied the allegation, but it has cast doubt on the December 12 election. It is too late to remove Moore's name from the ballot should he drop out.

The possibility that their two-vote cushion in the Senate could be cut in half by next month has ramped up the importance of fulfilling the GOP's goal of passing tax reform by Thanksgiving.

"This may be a narrow window to accomplish their policy objectives," said Jesse Richman, a political science professor at Old Dominion University in Virginia.

Daniel Palazzolo, interim associate dean of political science at the University of Richmond, said it would be difficult for Republicans to counter a fired-up Democratic opposition without a major legislative accomplishment to offer their supporters.

"The Republican base will be deflated," he said.

That's not to say passing tax cuts will be easy, Palazzolo said. Although the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act cleared the House Ways and Means Committee on a party-line vote Thursday, a number of Northeastern Republicans continue to object to a proposal to pare back a deduction for state and local taxes that would disproportionately impact residents from high-tax states.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, unveiled their own proposal [2] this week. It completely eliminates the state and local tax deduction, keeps seven tax brackets — instead of four in the House plan — and phases in the corporate tax cut. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) all have expressed reservations over aspects of the plan.

And that does not even take into account the haggling that would need to take place to reconcile differences between the House and Senate bills, should they both pass.

Related: Senate and House Face Off Over Tax Reform [2]

"It gives them motivation, that's for sure," said Palazzolo, referring to Tuesday's election results. "I don't know if that translates into votes."

Chuck Muth, president of Citizen Outreach, said Republicans cannot fail to pass tax reform and distance themselves from President Donald Trump.

"If they try to do that, they're toast in 2018," he said.

(photo credit, homepage image: Donald Trump [3]CC BY-SA 2.0 [4], by Gage Skidmore [5] / Mitch McConnell [6]CC BY-SA 2.0 [4], by Gage Skidmore [5] / Paul Ryan [7]CC BY-SA 2.0 [4], by Gage Skidmore [5]photo credit, article images: Paul Ryan [8], cut out, CC BY-SA 2.0 [4], by Gage Skidmore [5] / Mitch McConnell [9], cut out, CC BY-SA 2.0 [4], by Gage Skidmore [5])