Cohn, Mnuchin visit Capitol Hill to discuss tax reform

Cohn, Mnuchin visit Capitol Hill to discuss tax reform
© Greg Nash

Members of President Trump’s economic team spent Wednesday on Capitol Hill discussing tax reform in a series of meetings with lawmakers as the White House and members of Congress work toward the goal of producing a unified proposal.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn had meetings with Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, GOP congressional leaders and tax-writing committee chairmen, and members of the centrist Tuesday Group. Additionally, Mnuchin attended a lunch with Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Mnuchin and Cohn have been spending this month holding listening sessions with lawmakers and industry groups, following up on the release of the White House’s tax plan in late April.

“We’re having listening sessions, we’re taking feedback from both senators and House members and we’re taking their input as we said we would,” Cohn told reporters Wednesday afternoon. He called the conversations “constructive.”

When asked if the White House and lawmakers have decided whether to do tax reform or tax cuts, Cohn said, “We’re doing both.”

The administration officials’ meetings on Capitol Hill come one day before the Ways and Means Committee begins a series of hearings on tax reform.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP leaders launch internal review into leak Opinion | Michael Steele: Gianforte better put his ‘big boy’ pants on Washington needs high-level science and technology expertise – now! MORE (R-Wis.) and Ways and Means Chairman Kevin BradyKevin BradyBorder-adjustment tax proposal at death’s door Mnuchin asks Congress for clean debt hike before August Overnight Finance: Inside Trump's first budget | 66 programs on the chopping block | Hearing highlights border tax divide | Labor to implement investment adviser rule MORE (R-Texas) touted the hearing during a press briefing Wednesday. Republicans have been trying to stay focused on tax reform in the wake of reports that Trump requested that former FBI Director James Comey stop investigating former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

One topic that came up during Mnuchin and Cohn’s meetings with lawmakers was a provision in Ryan’s tax plan known as border adjustment to tax imports and exempt exports.

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria CantwellOvernight Energy: Democrats take on key Trump Interior nominee Democrats prod Trump Interior nominee over lobbying work Cohn, Mnuchin visit Capitol Hill to discuss tax reform MORE (D-Wash.) told a New York Times reporter following the Finance Committee meeting that Mnuchin and Cohn said they're trying to dissuade House Republicans on the border-adjustment provision.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin HatchGOP leaders launch internal review into leak Insurers: GOP should keep pre-existing condition protections DOJ pitches agreements to solve international data warrant woes MORE (R-Utah) said after another meeting that “no decisions were really made [on the border tax], other than there’s concern.”

Hatch called the border-adjustment proposal “a unique idea that has a long way to go.”

The meeting with Senate Finance Committee members was notable because it included lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.

The Finance Committee’s ranking member, Ron WydenRon WydenMnuchin: WH won't double-count economic growth Dem senator: White House stonewalling on important information Overnight Healthcare: CBO fallout | GOP senators distance themselves from House bill | Trump budget chief blasts score | Schumer says House bill belongs 'in the trash' MORE (D-Ore.), said he told Mnuchin and Cohn that senate Democrats want to write a bipartisan bill. Committee Democrats also stressed to Trump’s economic team that they want tax reform to help the middle class.

“What Senate Finance Democrats said today is, our focus is making sure that there is real tax relief for the middle class, and that there’s no gun to our heads through reconciliation,” Wyden said.

Republicans on the Finance Committee said that they appreciated that the meeting was bipartisan.

The meeting “represents the bipartisan outreach, and the number of Democrats suggests that they prefer to do a bipartisan tax bill, which is music to my ears,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynRepublicans go to battle over pre-existing conditions Senate panel could pass new Russia sanctions this summer Senate staff to draft health bill during recess MORE (R-Texas).