Congress passed, and Biden signed, the Inflation Reduction Act, without the foaming opposition expected of such ambitious legislation. Whereas, comparable legislation, passed under Democratic administrations, was met with vociferous opposition, the Inflation Reduction Act became codified law without becoming a conservative rallying point.
Obamacare Faced Obstacles
Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, offers a relevant example; when Obamacare was passed, Republicans cried bloody murder – and then spent a decade trying to kill the law. Obamacare became a curse word in Republican circles. Ironically, Obamacare was modeled closely after a program Mitt Romney instituted during his tenure as governor of Massachusetts; Romney, of course, was the very next GOP presidential candidate following Obamacare’s passage.
The IRA Passed at a Time of distraction
The Inflation Reduction Act, on the other hand, isn’t registering in the same way – not because Republicans approve of the legislation, which raises taxes on corporations and devotes trillions to climate change and health care – but because Republicans were distracted during the Inflation Reduction Act’s passage. Obviously, very little could serve to distract Republicans from the passage of something as impactful as the Inflation Reduction Act. But the FBI’s raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate fit the ticket – successfully consuming the outrage and indignation that otherwise would have been heaped upon the Inflation Reduction Act.
“In Washington, conservative activists did rally against the bill and targeted vulnerable Democrats in ads,” POLITICO reported. However, conservative attention remained (mostly) focused on Mar-a-lago. “Hundreds of [protesters] gathered instead outside Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in South Florida to protest what they viewed as an egregious example of federal government overreach.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who excelled in smearing Democrats for their policies, acknowledged that conservative attention was diverted away from the Inflation Reduction Act. “I think anytime you have FBI agents setting a new precedent by raiding a former president’s home, that’s going to get a lot of attention, compounded by Liz Cheney getting annihilated in her primary.”
Was it More than Mar-a-Lago?
Democrats believe the lack of opposition comes not just from the Mar-a-Lago distraction, but from the nature of the Inflation Reduction Act itself. Democrats believe that “uniform Republican opposition to the bill was hypocrisy – Trump once championed several of its provisions,” POLITICO reported. “You’re not having town halls with people screaming about Medicare drug negotiations, “Matt Bennett, the executive vice president for public affairs at the Democratic think tank Third Way, told POLITICO. “It’s very hard to object to a bill that invests a lot of money in clean energy.”
Some Republicans are arguing that the simultaneous timing of the Inflation Reduction Act and the Mar-a-Lago raid was not a coincidence at all. “The timing of the bill happening the same week as the former president’s residence was raided, and you had the split screen of, well, if they could do that to him, they could do that to you, and here’s this bill with 87,000 IRS agents being funded,” Jessica Anders, the executive director of Heritage Action for America, told POLITICO, “I think we’re going to look back and see that it really lit a match for people with the distrust for government at an all-time high.”
Still, large trends may be at play, reducing the outrage with which the Inflation Reduction Act was met. Some are arguing that “policy fights are no longer driving activism, at least to the degree they once did.” Brian Riedl, a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, made such an argument on Twitter.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about the GOP seemingly losing interest in policy and focusing on cultural battles and “owning the libs,”” Riedl began. “Conservative “apathy” on economic policy is partially a focus on culture & troll wars, partly a post-Trump identity crisis…and a lot of Democrats simply learning to avoid the economic policy prescriptions that most drive conservative rebellions.”
Policy apathy aside, the right is still very much engaged. “In the wake of the FBI’s search of Trump’s home, Trump’s Save America PAC reportedly raked in millions in the following days,” The Washington Post reported. Both the Inflation Reduction Act and the Mar-a-Lago raid will maintain their political relevance as the midterm elections heat up.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken. Follow him on Twitter @harrison_kass.