Tax re­form ef­fort brings splin­tered con­ser­va­tive groups to­gether

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

Con­ser­va­tive groups that served as a hur­dle to the GOP’s Oba­macare re­peal ef­forts are far more united as Repub­li­cans be­gin to tackle tax re­form, lead­ing con­gres­sional lead­ers to hope for fewer headaches dur­ing this next fight.

Some strate­gic early moves by GOP lead­ers, in­clud­ing nix­ing a con­tro­ver­sial bor­der ad­just­ment tax pro­posal, have helped clear the way, forg­ing unity among key con­stituent groups that was lack­ing in the health de­bate.

All sides of the con­ser­va­tive coali­tion say they at least agree on the broad out­lines of a tax over­haul, and are work­ing — and spend­ing their money — to boost the ef­fort, rather than at­tack­ing each other.

“We’re go­ing all-in,” said Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­ity Pres­i­dent Tim Phillips. “We have no il­lu­sions about how dif­fi­cult this is go­ing to be or frankly how much of a lift this is go­ing to be, but the stakes are high for our coun­try and we be­lieve the time is now to get this done.”

AFP was one of the groups that helped stymie the House GOP’s orig­i­nal Oba­macare re­peal bill, ar­gu­ing the leg­is­la­tion wasn’t con­ser­va­tive enough. Lead­ers can­celed votes and rewrote the bill, pro­duc­ing a new ver­sion that Pres­i­dent Trump then la­beled as “mean” — un­der­scor­ing the nasty in­tra­party con­ver­sa­tion on health care.

Repub­li­cans have tried to head those bat­tles off on taxes, par­tic­u­larly by ditch­ing the $1 tril­lion bor­der tax House Speaker Paul D. Ryan had been push­ing. House, Se­nate and ad­min­is­tra­tion prin­ci­pals all signed onto a state­ment of goals that dis­carded the bor­der tax and laid out goals all sides could stom­ach.

“I think lead­er­ship and the White House kind of learned some lessons from [the] health care de­bate, and de­cided to cre­ate unity on the front end be­fore the tax re­form de­bate started, and that is very much the case,” said Andy Roth, vice pres­i­dent of gov­ern­ment af­fairs at the pro-free mar­ket Club for Growth.

Low­er­ing taxes has al­ways been a uni­fy­ing prin­ci­ple for Repub­li­cans, which could help grease the skids as they try to meet the White House’s ag­gres­sive time­line for an over­haul.

That con­trasts with Oba­macare where, de­spite sim­i­lar time­lines, Repub­li­cans were un­sure of strat­egy and pol­icy. Some in the GOP wanted a flat re­peal, while oth­ers said they had to have a re­place­ment ready to go — and de­manded some of Oba­macare’s pro­vi­sions be kept in place.

While Democrats re­main gen­er­ally united in op­po­si­tion, the in­ter­nal GOP fights are less about big philo­soph­i­cal is­sues and more about the nuts and bolts of spe­cific taxes and rate lev­els.

“It’s not nec­es­sar­ily that Repub­li­cans and the con­ser­va­tive move­ment are more united on tax re­form,” said Dan Holler, vice pres­i­dent of Her­itage Ac­tion for Amer­ica. “But di­rec­tion­ally, where you go sort of af­ter that first step — there seems to be more agree­ment. So whereas re­peal­ing Oba­macare seemed ob­vi­ous, no­body knew where to go next.”

Con­ser­va­tive groups that fought each other over Oba­macare are find­ing com­mon ground.

The Amer­i­can Ac­tion Net­work, which is closely aligned with Mr. Ryan, an­nounced a $2.5 mil­lion TV ad cam­paign Wed­nes­day as part of its “Mid­dle-Class Growth Ini­tia­tive” boost­ing the tax re­form ef­fort, and the Koch broth­ers’ deep-pock­eted po­lit­i­cal net­work is also lined up.

The GOP should also ben­e­fit from in­dus­try sup­port this time around, with top busi­ness groups beg­ging for tax re­forms. That con­trasts with the health over­haul, where ad­vo­cates for in­sur­ers and doc­tors were vo­cif­er­ously op­posed.

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