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 Davis RyanHenry Kissinger, Tim Cook among guests at White House state dinner Overnight Finance: Stocks fall hard | Trump sending delegation to China for trade talks | SEC fines Yahoo M over breach | Dodd-Frank rollback dominates banking conference To keep control of House, GOP must have McCarthy as next Speaker MORE (R-Wis.) and Ways and Means Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyFormer Bush adviser joining Ways and Means Committee in key staff role Some doubt McCarthy or Scalise will ever lead House GOP House passes series of bills to improve IRS 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 Elaine CantwellA new progressive standard on campaign cash: It can't come from corporations Kamala Harris will no longer accept corporate PAC money Can Silicon Valley expect European-style regulation here at home? 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 Grant HatchSenators debate new business deduction, debt in tax law hearing Romney sits courtside for NBA playoffs, heckles star Trump struggles to get new IRS team in place 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 WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenators debate new business deduction, debt in tax law hearing Trump’s CIA pick facing brutal confirmation fight Trump struggles to get new IRS team in place 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 CornynRand's reversal advances Pompeo Joe Scarborough predicts Trump won't run in 2020 Republicans divided over legislation protecting Mueller MORE (R-Texas).