Trump administration officials and congressional Republican leaders are promising a new framework in two weeks for legislation that would overhaul the U.S. tax code — though they’ve shied away from releasing any details about how the changes would affect individuals or corporations.
Time is growing short for legislative action on taxes in 2017, and the promise of a framework during the week of Sept. 25 — a document that House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady described as the “core elements of tax reform” — comes as President Donald Trump is focusing on trying to attract Democrats’ support.
Three Democratic senators joined the president for a White House dinner Tuesday aimed at winning their support on a tax bill. Trump has another meeting scheduled Wednesday afternoon with a bipartisan group of moderate House members, the Problem Solvers. And he’s invited the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, to dine with him at the White House on Wednesday, according to two people familiar with the matter.
While such details as the corporate tax rate and the tax brackets that would apply to individuals remain secret, Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who dined with Trump Tuesday, said during a Bloomberg Television interview that the president is pitching tax relief for the middle class, not “a tax cut for the rich.”
Still, even amid the president’s bipartisan approach, lawmakers are laying the groundwork for getting legislation through the Senate without Democratic support.
During a closed-door meeting Wednesday, Brady thanked House Republicans for their hard work on a tax overhaul and emphasized that it’s more important than ever for the GOP to deliver on its tax promises, according to a person familiar with the meeting who asked not to be named. Brady, a Texas Republican, told members that following the framework’s release this month, the focus will turn to the House and Senate completing the budget process by mid-October, the person said. Brady added that the budget is necessary for a tax revamp.
House Budget Chairwoman Diane Black of Tennessee said Wednesday it’s unlikely that the budget resolution will reach the House floor this month.
Republicans have to agree on a 2018 budget resolution — a necessary step to unlock the procedural maneuver they intend to use to pass the tax plan with 50 votes in the Senate while avoiding any Democratic filibuster. The party controls only 52 of the chamber’s 100 votes.
Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus have said they won’t vote to pass a budget out of the House until they get more details on tax changes.
Black said the outline coming from the so-called Big Six — the administration and congressional leaders who are shaping the tax framework — should help to assuage those members’ concerns.
If Congress follows Brady’s schedule and adopts a budget resolution by the middle of October, there will be 28 legislative days left on the House calendar in 2017. And Congress must act by Dec. 8 to fund the government or face a shutdown, which could distract from the tax debate.
During a press conference last week, Brady, a member of the Big Six, wouldn’t confirm whether any specific decisions had been made and declined to offer a timetable for releasing details or marking up legislation.
The other members of the Big Six are House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.
Ryan said the outline that’s coming this month would reflect agreement among the tax-writing committees in the House and Senate, and the administration. Subsequently, the committees will take feedback and write the bills in the weeks ahead.
“This is really the consensus of the tax writers themselves so that we’re working from the same page,” Ryan said during a press conference Wednesday. “The tax writers are going to take it from there on the details.”
Hatch was less committal on the content and timing of any new tax framework. “It looks to me like there will be” a document released during the week of Sept. 25 that provides new details on the Republican tax plan, he told reporters on Wednesday. “But I’m not totally confident about that.”
Ryan also said he would love to have the Democrats working with the GOP “but we’re going to do it no matter what.”