Republican lawmakers desperately want to show unity following weeks of bad headlines focused on President Donald Trump, and they’re hoping tax reform will do the trick.
Last month, party leaders in the House and Senate released an optimistic joint statement with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and national economic adviser Gary Cohn, outlining their tax reform plan. After Republicans failed to coalesce around healthcare legislation, party leaders are feeling the pressure to chalk up a substantive legislative victory—the first under the Trump administration.
“We’re not going to have that problem on this because everybody is going in the same direction,” Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, told me.
Norquist predicts the GOP will finish writing tax reform legislation by Sept. 28, pass it through the House in October, and give it a final Senate blessing before Thanksgiving. Slightly contradicting that best-case scenario, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., a member of the Senate Finance Committee, told Roll Call Wednesday he doesn’t expect final passage until Christmas Eve.
President Trump continues to blame Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for failing on healthcare, and a flop on tax reform could permanently scar the GOP. But conservatives expect McConnell to deliver.
“Everybody goes ‘Oh, the president is having a fight with Mitch McConnell’—Mitch McConnell doesn’t have friends and enemies; Mitch McConnell is trying to do stuff,” Norquist told me. “The president needs the Senate to pass something, so sit back and get out of the way and let Mitch do his magic.”
Trump spoke to supporters in Phoenix, Ariz., on Aug. 22 and railed against McConnell and McCain for thwarting his agenda. Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., made his own trip to the West, touring Intel’s facilities in Hillsboro, Ore., and talking up GOP plans for the tax system. But he couldn’t leave without addressing Trump’s latest friendly fire: “I think the president feels that’s a strategy that works for him. I would just say that I think it’s important that we all stay unified as Republicans to complete our agenda.”
Will all the White House staffing changes complicate that effort?
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s departure Friday marked the fourth high-profile staffing change in less than a month. Since taking office in January, Trump has lost a chief of staff, a chief strategist, a national security adviser, a press secretary, two communications directors, and a deputy chief of staff.
Bannon’s exit is significant for some parts of the GOP agenda—immigration and foreign policy, in particular—but not for tax reform, Norquist said. As for the legislative battles Bannon did engage in, such as the spring healthcare debate in the House, he wasn’t always effective.
“The only time I ever interacted with Steve Bannon, he was yelling at me, so I’m not going to shed a tear,” Rep. Tom Garrett, R-Va., a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told WMRU radio last week.
But Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, told The Washington Post that losing Bannon could weaken Trump’s connection to his base: “This looks like a purging of conservatives. With Steve Bannon gone, what’s left of the conservative core in the West Wing? Who’s going to carry out the Trump agenda?”
Courtesy: WORLD News Service
Photo courtesy: Getty Images
Publication date: August 25, 2017