Why the tax bill passed the Senate but Obamacare repeal failed

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Media Outlet: Vox

Lee Drutman explored what made tax reform pass where many others have failed for Vox

In the wake of the Senate passing a massive Republican tax bill, one obvious question is why the tax bill succeeded but Obamacare repeal failed.
Certainly, there are many reasons. You can blame the quirks of process and personality. You can blame the irrational dogmatic faith elected Republicans seem to have that cutting taxes for businesses and rich people will stimulate economic growth. You can even talk about the “need for a win” factor.
But here’s another reason: The tax bill creates diffuse but hard-to-trace costs alongside few but concentrated benefits; Obamacare repeal would have created concentrated easy-to-trace costs alongside few but diffuse benefits. And while both bills were deeply unpopular (no wonder, since both had few winners and lots of losers), the diffuse but hard-to-trace costs of the tax bill means that Republicans have a better chance to avoid paying a political price for that piece of unpopular legislation. By contrast, repealing Obamacare would have hurt them more politically, because it created more clear and direct losers, who could easily connect their losses to the legislation.

Author:

Lee Drutman is a senior fellow in the program on political reform at New America. He is the author of The Business of America is Lobbying (Oxford University Press, 2015).