By JOHN T. BENNETT and LINDSEY McPHERSON, CQ Roll Call
A government shutdown deadline, maybe a second try at pushing a health care overhaul bill through the House, an image-focused president approaching his 100th day. And, now, a White House tax reform plan.
Get ready for Hell Week.
A White House official confirmed reports that President Donald Trump intends to add to Washington’s already tickey to-do list for next week by rolling out his long-promised plan to simplify the tax code and slash federal rates sometime next week.
“The president was saying what we’ve been saying all along, that he wants to do tax reform as quickly as possible while still doing it right,” a the official said.
The plan will propose a “massive tax cut” for individuals and businesses, Trump told the AP. As he often does, the president did not speak in specifics during the interview, according to an AP report, but he did say his proposal would, if enacted, be “bigger, I believe, than any tax cut ever.”
Trump did not give a specific day on which the White House will lay out the plan, pointing only to “Wednesday or shortly thereafter.”
“And we’ll be having a big announcement next Wednesday having to do with tax reform. The process has begun long ago. But it really formally begins on Wednesday. So go to it,” Trump said at the Department of the Treasury.
“All right, Mr. President,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin responded.
Mnuchin recently said it appeared no tax overhaul bill would get to the president’s desk before Congress departs for its annual August recess. Mnuchin and other administration officials now hope lawmakers can send them a package before the end of the year.
Even that timeline would test lawmakers, one source said this week. That’s because Congress will likely be facing yet another government shutdown deadline when they return to Washington in September, while also engaging in a fight about what to do about the federal debt ceiling.
Mnuchin told reporters Friday that senior administration officials have been working with House and Senate leaders on tax reform. He and House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, met weekly for a month or two about the contents of the administration’s plan.
The Treasury secretary also laid out the broad parameters of the goals of the coming Trump plan: “We said during the campaign and we’ve said now we will be working with Congress on a comprehensive tax reform package with the idea to simplify personal taxes, create middle-income tax cuts and make business taxes more competitive.”
Mnuchin would only characterize the White House as “very close” to rolling out its plan. Once it does, it will head to Capitol Hill, where Trump, Mnuchin and their aides will have to garner the support of the often-fractious House Republican caucus.
House Republicans’ “A Better Way” blueprint has been the only GOP framework for overhauling the tax code released to date. They have yet to release legislation fleshing out the details of the blueprint, which they put out last June.
The blueprint calls for lowering the 35 percent corporate tax rate to 20 percent and the top 39.6 percent individual rate to 33 percent. House Republicans also want to lower tax rates for small businesses to 25 percent. For passthrough companies that rate is currently wedded to the individual rates.
A key item to look for in Trump’s plan is how he plans to implement the “massive border tax” that he has called for throughout the campaign. House GOP leaders are hoping he’ll endorse their so-called border adjustment tax, or BAT, which would impose a 20 percent tax on imports and eliminate export taxes.
Supporters of the BAT argue that it would put the U.S. in line with most other developed countries that tax imports but not exports (the U.S. currently does the reverse). But the BAT has already drawn fierce opposition inside and outside Capitol Hill, with opponents arguing that many companies would dramatically raise the prices of imported goods to help pay for the tax.
Just where Trump stands at this point on the border adjustment tax is murky. He is clearly lukewarm about the idea, but mostly has criticized how it sounds.
“I don’t like the word ‘adjustment’, because our country gets taken advantage of, to use a nice term, by every other country in the world,” Trump told Fox Business News last Wednesday. “Adjustment means we lose. We lose.”
“Let’s call it an import tax. Let’s call it a reciprocal tax,” Trump added. “Nobody gets angry when you say reciprocal tax.”
On Thursday, Trump used that word again when talking about U.S.-Italian trade during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
“We both seek a trading relationship that is balanced, reciprocal — I love the word ‘reciprocal,’” Trump said, “because we don’t have too many reciprocal trading partnerships, I will tell you that, but we will very soon — and fair, benefitting both of our countries.”
Top spokesman Sean Spicer was last asked about the border adjustment tax in late February. He declined to directly address it, saying only that Trump “has talked about the concerns that he has with current regulatory and tax policy that benefit people from moving out of the country and shipping jobs — or products — back in while shedding American workers.”