Ryan throws cold water on Trump tax goal

House Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP rep: Virginia defeat 'a referendum' on Trump administration After Texas shooting, lawmakers question whether military has systemic reporting problem Pence: Praying 'takes nothing away' from trying to figure out causes behind mass shooting MORE (R-Wis.) on Thursday said that President Trump’s goal of lowering the corporate tax rate to 15 percent would be difficult to achieve.

“The numbers are hard to make that work,” Ryan said at an event hosted by The New York Times.

Ryan said that his goal is to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to at least the average for industrialized countries, 22.5 percent.

“Our goal is to get in the mid-to-low 20s, and we think that that’s an achievable goal,” he said.

The corporate rate has been the source of considerable debate as Republicans seek to overhaul the tax code.

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In a speech in North Dakota Wednesday, Trump said that “ideally, we would like to bring our business tax rate down to around 15 percent.” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) has also said that he would like the corporate tax rate to be in the teens.

But others, including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchRead Senate GOP's tax bill Senate panel to start tax bill markup on Monday Senate set for clash with House on tax bill MORE (R-Utah), have agreed with Ryan that slashing the rate to 15 percent would be challenging. If lawmakers want to lower tax rates without significantly increasing the deficit, they will have to find ways to offset the revenue losses.

Amid a crowded legislative scheduled, Ryan said that he still wants to pass tax-reform legislation this year, calling it “an enormous game-changer economically for our country.”

The Speaker said that the congressional tax-writing committees are “very close” to releasing their “template,” and after that they would move legislation through their panels.

Freedom Caucus members said in a separate event Thursday hosted by Bloomberg that they wanted to see more details on tax reform.

“Hope is not a plan. There was no plan on the debt ceiling. Somebody tell me what the plan is for tax reform,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

Meadows denied reports that the group was formulating a plan of its own to present, but he said he wants lawmakers to be “as aggressive as we can” when it comes to a tax overhaul. Freedom Caucus members suggested that perhaps congressional leaders should abandon their desire for tax reform to be revenue-neutral, meaning that tax cuts would be paid for by eliminating tax breaks and creating new revenue streams.

“I’m nervous about this revenue-neutral approach on tax reform,” Jordan said, adding that in such an approach, the “tax burden stays the same, you just shift around who pays what.”

Trump on Wednesday made an agreement with Democrats to extend federal government funding and the debt limit through Dec. 15 as deadlines loomed later this month.

Meadows said he doesn’t think the new December debt-limit deadline will make tax reform harder “because tax reform needs to happen by Thanksgiving.”

However, if Congress waits until the middle of December to consider a tax bill, “it becomes more difficult,” he added.