If Repub­li­cans can’t pass a tax over­haul by end of this year, it won’t hap­pen, says of­fi­cial

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

A lead­ing House con­ser­va­tive said Wed­nes­day that Congress must pass “bold” tax re­form be­fore De­cem­ber or it won’t hap­pen, say­ing law­mak­ers will get skit­tish about rock­ing the boat dur­ing an elec­tion year if the is­sue drags into 2018.

Other con­gres­sional lead­ers have said the goal is ac­tion by year’s end, but Rep. Mark Mead­ows, North Carolina Repub­li­can, went a step fur­ther and said law­mak­ers will lose their chance to do any­thing mean­ing­ful what­so­ever if the process drags into next year.

“If it doesn’t get to the pres­i­dent’s desk by Thanks­giv­ing … it isn’t go­ing to hap­pen,” Mr. Mead­ows, chair­man of the con­ser­va­tive House Free­dom Cau­cus, said at an event at the New­seum.

Af­ter the col­lapse of the GOP’s push to re­peal Oba­macare, pres­sure is mount­ing to score a win on a big leg­isla­tive pack­age, and a tax code over­haul is the best op­tion.

Top ad­min­is­tra­tion and con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans last week re­leased a se­ries of prin­ci­ples they said would guide them, but there’s been lit­tle sense of agree­ment on the de­tails.

Mr. Mead­ows said he is still op­ti­mistic about ul­ti­mately get­ting some­thing done, but said it’s go­ing to take con­sid­er­able pres­sure from grass-roots ac­tivists to keep pokey law­mak­ers on an am­bi­tious time­line of mov­ing leg­is­la­tion through the House in Oc­to­ber.

“The minute we go past Jan­uary, ev­ery­body starts say­ing ‘well, we can’t do any­thing too bold’,” Mr. Mead­ows said. “It’s the po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity in those midterm years. Ev­ery­thing starts to slow down and you do things around the edges.”

Marc Short, the White House’s top leg­isla­tive li­ai­son, laid out a sim­i­larly “ag­gres­sive” time­line ear­lier in the week, say­ing they hope to be mov­ing leg­is­la­tion through the House in Oc­to­ber and the Se­nate in Novem­ber.

“Let’s get this done this year. If it drifts into ’18, it gets a whole lot harder, so that’s what we’re aim­ing for,” Tim Phillips, pres­i­dent of Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­ity, said Wed­nes­day.

Mr. Mead­ows said he wants Congress to shoot for a cor­po­rate rate of lower than 20 per­cent — down from the cur­rent rate of 35 per­cent — and re­jected the no­tion of ac­cept­ing a higher rate if it meant a smoother pas­sage for the fi­nal prod­uct.

“Go bold, and the minute you start ne­go­ti­at­ing like that you’re ne­go­ti­at­ing against your­self,” he told re­porters after­ward. “I made a very good liv­ing ne­go­ti­at­ing. I would never agree to that.”

He also said he wants any re­forms to be made retroac­tive to the be­gin­ning of the year so they can im­me­di­ately jump-start the econ­omy.

“If we wait un­til next year, then what hap­pens is we don’t get the econ­omy go­ing for an­other full year,” he said.

Mr. Mead­ows and his cau­cus of some three-dozen hard­line con­ser­va­tives wield con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence in the House. With no Demo­cratic sup­port, op­po­si­tion from enough Free­dom Cau­cus mem­bers would be enough to sink any tax pack­age.

He said sup­port will come down to the de­tails.

“We ac­tu­ally need the text of what we’re talk­ing about so that we can start go­ing through that and fig­ure out what’s good and bad,” he said.

Tax re­form is just one item on an al­ready packed sched­uled for Congress in the fall. Law­mak­ers need to pass leg­is­la­tion to fund the gov­ern­ment past Sept. 30, and Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin re­cently gave them a Sept. 29 dead­line to raise the debt ceil­ing.

The Free­dom Cau­cus has de­manded that any in­crease in the debt ceil­ing be ac­com­pa­nied with spend­ing cuts, but Mr. Mead­ows said it will ul­ti­mately get raised one way or an­other.

“We will raise the debt ceil­ing, and there shouldn’t be any fear of that,” he said.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

“If it doesn’t get to the pres­i­dent’s desk by Thanks­giv­ing ... it isn’t go­ing to hap­pen,” said Rep. Mark Mead­ows, Repub­li­can North Carolina, and chair­man of the con­ser­va­tive House Free­dom Cau­cus. “The minute we go past Jan­uary, ev­ery­body starts say­ing ‘well, we can’t do any­thing too bold’,” he said.

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