Always the policy bridesmaid, tax reform once again is taking a back seat as Congress debates Obamacare repeal legislation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday played down expectations that any tax package can be completed before the August recess, despite Trump administration vows to pursue “historic” legislation soon.
“I think finishing on tax reform will take longer,” the Kentucky Republican said. “We do have to finish the health care debate … before we go to taxes.”
McConnell addressed the dual goals of health care and tax legislation as his party allies work feverishly on the House side to advance a newly released replacement for the Affordable Care Act, amid bipartisan criticism.
While that too is a top Trump priority, the president’s team has been equally bullish about the prospects for tax reform – with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin just weeks ago setting August as the goal. The White House swiftly pushed back on McConnell’s timeline Thursday.
“We feel very confident that we’re going to get a lot done — continue to get a lot done this year. Tax reform is high on the president’s priority list,” Press Secretary Sean Spicer said.
He said Trump is “committed” to this and “you’re going to see Secretary Mnuchin and others work on the contours of that in the next several weeks.”
Asked if August was still the goal, he said, “That’s right.”
Mnuchin specifically cited the August recess goal in a CNBC interview in late February. The secretary said tax reform is the No. 1 economic goal for the administration.
“On the personal side, it’s really about tax simplification — fewer tax brackets, simpler taxes and creating a middle income tax cut,” Mnuchin said. “That’s really the focus on personal taxes. And on business taxes, it’s really about making U.S. companies competitive.”
McConnell on Thursday would not venture a prediction on when tax reform could be completed, noting it is “complicated” work to determine which tax preferences can be eliminated to produce the revenue to offset the impact from lower rates. Further, he predicted Democrats would not participate in the discussions given “this has not been a kumbaya moment here” at the start of the Trump administration.
“Basically, it’s a Republicans-only exercise,” he said.
While it’s unclear what the formal tax proposal may look like, Trump during the campaign called for lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent. He also called for simplifying the tax code, collapsing the seven current brackets down to four, with the highest rate at just 25 percent, down from 39.6 percent.
If these guys had to operate in the real business world with critical deadlines, they wouldn’t last 30 days. Trump, who is accustomed to working in the real world at a faster pace, must already feel irritated, especially when he’s simultaneously trying to dodge all the political land mines O left for him.
In the House, we have Paul Ryan doing a cut and paste job on Obamacare, while trying to convince us it’s the only way to go, rather than to actually repeal it as was promised. It hasn’t even made it to the Senate yet for their rejection, and now we have McConnell whining and backpedaling about a deadline that is still six months away, on a project they haven’t even started yet.
McConnell says he thinks it will take longer and he’s probably right, considering that they’ll have to set aside time to hear what their lobbyists think. He’ll want to hear from those big corporations shoving money into his campaign fund about which taxes they want cut before any decisions can be made.
Next he complains that trying to work with the Democrats isn’t exactly a kumbaya moment and that it’s a Republicans-only exercise. Evidently McConnell misses the point of his being in Washington. His constituents elected him to fight the Dems, not hold hands and sing songs around the campfire with them. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see the absence or lack of consent from them being a problem, so why should he? If anything, it would make the job easier, and as I recall, we certainly didn’t see any concern from them when they were scrambling to put O’care together and push it through.
Unless Trump can find a higher gear for these snails, there’s no way they’ll have this done in August, and one look at this calendar will explain why.