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NRCC Chairman Urges Members to Keep Talking Taxes

Republicans view the tax overhaul as a salient campaign issue

Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, chairs the NRCC and addressed the conference Wednesday morning. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, chairs the NRCC and addressed the conference Wednesday morning. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers had a message for House Republicans on Tuesday morning: keep talking about the tax overhaul.

The Ohio Republican presented attendees at a GOP conference meeting with polling that showed voters have not heard from them lately about the tax overhaul, according to a source with knowledge of the discussion. Stivers “implored them to continue to sell it,” the source said.

The tax overhaul, which was signed into law in December, is expected to be a key campaign issue for Republicans this year. They plan to tout it as a significant legislative achievement that cut taxes for millions of Americans. But Democrats have labeled the overhaul the “Republican tax scam” and argue that it mostly benefits the wealthiest Americans. 

Stivers’ message Tuesday morning shows Republicans still believe the tax law is something that could help them in the midterms, where historic trends and Democratic energy appear to be working against them.

The meeting also comes after a New York Times analysis of cable news coverage and Google searches published Monday that showed cable news media and voters were no longer focused on the tax plan. The Times also noted a decline in President Donald Trump’s discussion of taxes in speeches or on Twitter after March.

The president tweeted about the tax overhaul on Tuesday, saying, “So many people are seeing the benefits of the Tax Cut Bill. Everyone is talking, really nice to see!”

“It’s something we need to continue to sell every day,” Illinois GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger said of the tax law after the conference meeting. “You’ve got to continue to remind people of the benefits, the economic growth, everything we’re seeing.”

But not all Republicans think taxes could help save them in the midterms. 

“I think leadership is encouraging members to double down on the tax reform. I think they still think it’s a winning issue, and I think in some areas it will be a winning issue,“ said Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Charlie Dent, who announced later Tuesday he was resigning from Congress. “But again, the overall campaign will be more of a referendum of the United States and [Trump’s] conduct in office. All of the other issues will be subordinate to that overriding theme.”

Messaging over the tax bill waned in the final stretch of a recent special election in Pennsylvania, Dent pointed out, where Democrat Conor Lamb won in a district Trump carried by 20 points. 

“So the tax reform message didn’t work as well as I think they would have liked in southwestern Pennsylvania,” he said. 

Dent recalled running for re-election in 2006 when Democrats won back the House. He said that election was largely focused on a reaction to the George W. Bush administration and opposition to the ongoing Iraq war.

“You have to be able to establish yourself from the president,” he said.  

Watch: Lawmakers Praise Trump in Rose Garden Tax Bill Celebration

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