White House not ruling out executive steps on taxes

Obama, Tax Reform, Executive action
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The Obama administration is not ruling out using executive powers to also address the tax code.

With Senate Democrats openly pushing the administration to take its own action on the tax front, the White House is not shooting down the idea.

“The president certainly has not indicated any reticence about using his executive authority to try to advance an agenda that benefits middle-class Americans,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest Monday.

At the same time, Earnest emphasized that there was no “imminent announcement” about executive steps on the tax front. He simply reiterated that Obama wants his team to examine “an array of executive authorities that are available to him.”

Asked again about executive action on taxes Tuesday, Earnest noted that the president has told lawmakers what he is interested in on taxes — closing loopholes for the wealthy and corporations, and using that revenue to invest in infrastructure and boost the economy — as well as Congress’s role in determining what constitutes the tax code. “There are laws that are in place that deal with Congress and their power of the purse. And it is Congress’s responsibility to make decisions about the budget,” he said.

But again, Earnest said he was not “ruling anything in or out,” when it came to specific executive steps.

“This is related to the president’s ability to use his executive authority to do what he thinks is the right thing for the country,” he said. “The fact is, we haven’t seen a lot of efficient production out of Congress over the last couple of months.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has pressed the White House to cut corporate tax breaks via executive power, and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, issued a report Tuesday that identified several other regulatory steps as well.

The Democratic push for executive help on the tax front comes as Republicans have lobbed harsh criticism at the president for acting alone on immigration.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) sent a letter to Obama Tuesday, calling on him to publicly reject Democratic calls for executive steps.

"By unilaterally rewriting the country’s tax code to implement your preferred policies, the executive branch would encroach upon this long-standing legislative power and undermine the separate, co-equal institutions that have served the American people well for hundreds of years," he wrote.

— This post updated at 11:39 am.