The Riggs Report: A GOP defection on the tax bill

November 9, 2017

San Diego congressman lands in the ‘no’ column

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, wants no part of this party.

Issa, who faces a difficult reelection campaign next year in his San Diego County district, broke with the GOP leadership this week in announcing Tuesday that he will not vote for the existing tax bill. In so doing, Issa became the first of California’s 14 Republican members of Congress to cast a thumbs down on the bill.

“Many Californians who need and deserve tax relief won’t benefit from the current framework, or at worse, may see their tax burden rise as a consequence of certain changes including, but not limited to, the elimination of the state and local income tax deduction,” Issa said in a statement. “I cannot endorse changes that may make the tremendous burden felt by California taxpayers even worse. Tax reform should lower taxes for all taxpayers, regardless of where they live.”

Issa is best-known in Sacramento for providing a large cash infusion that jump-started the 2003 recall of then-Gov. Gray Davis. He has been in Congress since 2000, but squeaked to a reelection win by less than 2,000 votes in 2016 and is considered a prime target for defeat by the Democrats in next year’s election.

Issa’s criticism of the current tax bill echoes, in many respects, that of California Democrats, including Sacramento Rep. Doris Matsui, who denounced the bill this week as a giveaway to the wealthy and large corporations.

Matsui said previously in a floor speech:

“The GOP tax plan gets rid of common sense policies that the American people rely upon. It eliminates the student loan deduction that helps people pay for college. It eliminates the medical expense deduction, which helps families struggling with diseases, like Alzheimer’s, afford care. It eliminates the deduction for teachers that helps them purchase supplies for the classroom, and it sharply reduces the state and local tax deduction that my constituents in Sacramento rely upon.”

The proposed measure is especially damaging for California because it would eliminate not just the deduction for state and local taxes, but puts a limit on the mortgage interest deduction for new loans, capping it at $500,000.

An analysis released this week by Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation concluded that the bill’s tax cuts would have a lasting effect on the nation’s wealthiest taxpayers, but would begin to drop off for those in the lower- to middle-class income brackets by 2027.

Political observers are going to be watching closely to see if any other California Republicans peel off, or whether they will stand with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield.

It’s a tough calculation, especially for a handful of members who, like Issa, face a tough campaign for reelection. Locally, that list includes Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto.

There won’t be much time to ponder. McCarthy is reportedly pushing for a floor vote in the House in the next week or so, with the Senate following shortly thereafter.