White House isn’t sweating details of tax overhaul bill
Administration narrative echoed
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As the Congress sets the stage for a long and contentious debate over the tax overhaul, the White House is confident that the overall framework — if not every detail — will pass and be signed into law by year end.
And the details don’t much matter to the administration, said Budget Director Mick Mulvaney in Washington, as long as the end result reduces individual taxes through a simpler revenue code and cuts corporate taxes to a rate not exceeding 20 percent. In Columbus, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had the same message in an address to the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants.
“As long as those two things are preserved, we’re likely to support anything” that Congress can pass, Mr. Mulvaney told a small group of reporters at the White House on Tuesday.
“The House and the Senate fundamentally have the same plan,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “While there are slight variations, it’s the same objectives.”
Both predicted President Donald Trump will sign a tax overhaul package into law by year’s end.
The House and Senate are operating on separate tracks with the lower chamber expected to vote Thursday and the upper chamber sometime after Thanksgiving.
The bill doesn’t even have to nix the Affordable Care Act’s individual insurance mandate, Mr. Mulvaney said. Repeal was added to the mix Tuesday as an apparent sweetener for anti-Obamacare Republicans in high-tax states who are on the fence because of how the framework handles write-offs for state and local taxes.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, RPa., is among the backers of the effort to use the tax legislation as a vehicle for repealing the mandate.
The White House isn’t taking a firm position on including it in the tax bill, although it does support repeal generally.
“We want the best tax bill that can pass. If adding a repeal of the individual mandate makes it able to pass, great,” Mr. Mulvaney said as he took questions 1½ miles away from the Capitol, where House and Senate Republicans were working to advance the separate plans.
The plans differ in the number of tax brackets, the top tax rates, allowable deductions, amount of estatetax deduction and implementation date, for example.
The administration hasn’t taken a side on those differences.
“A lot of those details are [lawmakers’] details, stuff they’ve hashed out,” Mr. Mulvaney said. “We like the House bill, and we like what we see in the Senate bill,” he said. “Everything we’ve seen out of the House and the Senate we could support.”
Democrats have accused Republicans of pursuing tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations at the expense of workingclass Americans.
“If the driving force of this is a massive tax cut for corporations … it’s very hard to see how they could dress that up in a way that Democrats would support it,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said outside the Athletic Club of Columbus where Mr. Mnuchin spoke.
“What’s driving this is … CEOs in rooms saying ‘This is important to us’ and donors saying, ‘If you don’t do this again, we’ll never supportyou’,” he said.
Democratsand some nonpartisan analysts say the bill won’t do what Republicans insist it will: reduce middle classtaxes.
The White House doesn’t trusttheir analyses.
“We don’t put much credence in the larger studies, the groups we know don’t like what the president is going to accomplish. There’s a lot of folks that have a vested interest in seeing this fail,” Mr. Mulvaney said.
Democrats including U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., have been arguing strongly against the legislation and plan to offer hundreds of amendments to force tough votes, slow down the process and stop what they characterize as a corporate tax giveaway offset by program cuts and shaky projections about economic gains.
Republicans have concerns, too, especially those from high-tax states that would lose out on valuable deductions they currently take for state and local taxes.
“I’ve heard folks say it’s really double taxation,” Mr. Mulvaney said. “No. We’re only taxing you once. Somebody else just happens to be taxing you.”
Because of the deduction, people in low-tax jurisdictions are subsidizing those in high-tax jurisdictions, Mr. Mulvaney said.