Week In Politics: Taxes And Sexual Harassment
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Republicans and now Democrats are grappling with claims of sexual misconduct in their ranks. Meanwhile, the largest overhaul of the tax code in recent memory is rapidly moving through Congress. These are both hugely important issues. And to talk about them, we have Clare Malone. She's senior political writer for fivethirtyeight.com. Clare, welcome to the program. Good morning.
CLARE MALONE: Great to be here.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So I'm going to start with Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama. Right now there are several polls that show that Democrat Doug Jones is ahead. So with the caveat that polls have been known to be misleading...
MALONE: (Laughter) Yeah.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, just a little.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Did the Roy Moore allegations come far enough before the election to swing the vote? Or are people just not telling pollsters the truth because it's a loaded subject?
MALONE: Well, I think that Roy Moore was already pretty unpopular with a certain part of the Republican electorate in Alabama. So he has solid support among people who have known him for years and like what he's doing. But if you're a Republican who voted for Luther Strange, who was his primary opponent, you might be making the choice of, do I sit at home, or do I go out and vote for Doug Jones?
And I think what'll really, you know, end up swinging the election are these Republican voters who really just find what Moore did a bridge too far. They already didn't like him. And now this is just beyond the pale for them. So I do think, you know, in the polling average, it's not great for for Roy Moore at all. So we might definitely see a change. And I think Alabama being rated a toss-up is kind of a crazy thing to see...
MALONE: ...From a political point of view.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Deep-red state. All right.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let's talk about the Democratic side of this issue. Senate Democrat Al Franken accused of groping and forcibly kissing Leeann Tweeden, a radio news anchor. Franken has since apologized and called for an ethics investigation of himself. There's been widespread condemnation. Are the Democrats dealing with this differently than the Republicans?
MALONE: Well, they - you know, the national Republican Party has condemned Roy Moore. And Democrats haven't gone that far. Obviously, Al Franken and Roy Moore are accused of doing very different things. And Democrats - you know, he's a sitting senator. I think there's some sense of collegiality that is felt. And so while leading Democrats have said, you know, this is wrong. We think that there should be an ethics investigation - they haven't called for Franken to resign...
MALONE: ...Which I do think is quite interesting. I mean, I'll also say that I kind of thought, well, maybe given the Roy Moore allegations and the current climate in the country they might say he should resign. We've got a Democratic governor in Minnesota that can appoint...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So they can take the moral high ground.
MALONE: Yeah. But that's not what's happening. And I think, you know, one thing we are seeing in these very partisan times is that, sometimes, you want your team to win. And, you know, there's - there are certain - you want you want to maintain calm in the Senate. I think that's a little bit what is going on - is allowing Franken to stay, even as there might be some doubts about, you know, the morality of that among Democrats.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. Let's talk taxes. The latest GOP tax plan sailed through the House of Representatives this week. It's now in the Senate. What will be the greatest challenge there. Could it fail there, or is it likely to pass? They need a win.
MALONE: Well, they already have - the Republicans already have some problems going on with even some of their most conservative members. So you've got Ron Johnson from Wisconsin who's already said, I won't vote for this bill in the way it stands. Someone like Susan Collins objects to the fact that the repeal of the individual mandate - the health care mandate - has been attached to this bill. So while it passed through the House pretty easily, the Senate is an incredibly different climate. You have people like Bob Corker and Jeff Flake who are a little bit of - you know, they're sticking in the craw of Republican leaderships because they're - you know, they're sort of doing...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Deficit hawks. Yeah.
MALONE: Yes, exactly.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: They're saying, hey, this is not going to reduce the deficit. Why are we going to vote for this?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So yeah. They don't want to see this necessarily pass, either.
MALONE: Yeah. It's also an incredibly unpopular bill with the public. You know, it's seen largely as not helping the middle class in polls. And so I think, you know, the fact that the individual mandate was attached to this bill means that Republicans are cognizant that they need to do something to sort of get their base to accept it a bit more. But I think it's a bit of a slog. And they feel like they need to pass this in order to satisfy their donors. But they're also facing the fact that their voters might not really like this tax bill.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Just briefly - we only have a few seconds - but if you had to say if this bill does not pass, how much is it going to hurt the GOP?
MALONE: I think quite a bit. There's already a bad atmosphere for Republicans going into the midterm elections. And I think the fact that they haven't accomplished a major piece of legislation will really hurt them quite a bit.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. That was Clare Malone, senior political writer for fivethirtyeight.com. Thanks, Clare.
MALONE: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.