Ryan urges conservatives to take on criticisms of GOP tax plan

Ryan urges conservatives to take on criticisms of GOP tax plan
© Camille Fine

Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanThe Hill Interview: Budget Chair Black sticks around for now Gun proposal picks up GOP support GOP lawmaker Tim Murphy to retire at end of term MORE (R-Wis.) is urging conservatives to push back against criticism of the GOP's tax plan as he seeks to build momentum for his top legislative priority.

"I say: Let’s have this debate. Let’s tackle these baseless arguments head on," Ryan said in prepared remarks for a speech on Thursday at the Heritage Foundation, a prominent conservative think tank.

The White House and congressional GOP leaders released a tax-reform framework in late September that is designed to serve as a starting point for legislation. The plan would collapse the number of individual tax rates, slash rates for businesses and eliminate the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax.

ADVERTISEMENT
Outside conservative groups have been rallying around the framework — in contrast to the lack of unified support that conservatives gave to the GOP's bills to repeal and replace ObamaCare earlier this year. Right-leaning organizations have praised Republican lawmakers' plans in letters as well as in advertisements.

But the plan has already faced pushback from Democrats, who argue that it would drastically increase the deficit and mostly benefit the wealthy taxpayers at the expense of everyone else. Some lobbyists have also started to fight to preserve tax preferences that appear to be on the chopping block.

Ryan said on Thursday that critics have been lodging attacks about tax cuts for the rich "for as long as I can remember" and said that the GOP tax plan would help the middle class by lowering rates, increasing the standard deduction and expanding the child tax credit.

"You know what the irony is? A tax system that disproportionately benefits the wealthy instead of the middle class is the one we have today," he said. "It works best for those who know how to take advantage of all these breaks and deductions."

The Speaker also sought to rebut criticism that eliminating certain tax breaks would hurt middle-class families. Democrats in particular have been making this argument about Republicans' plan to do away with the deduction for state and local taxes.

But Ryan said that tax "loopholes" that benefit special interests "just reward the few and keep rates artificially high for everyone else." 

"They only make it more difficult to give tax relief to those who need it the most," he added.

Ryan also noted that Republicans plan to keep the deductions for mortgage interest and charitable giving and streamline tax incentives for work, retirement and higher education.

Additionally, Ryan pushed back on opposition to cutting the corporate tax rate, saying this line of attack "may be the most off base." He noted that former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Interior moves to delay Obama’s methane leak rule MORE supported a lower corporate rate.

The GOP framework calls for cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. Ryan said that while many corporations currently do not pay the statutory rate, "if we get rid of these special-interest carveouts and cut the statutory rate, corporations will pay what they are supposed to."

Ryan also said that changes to the corporate tax code will benefit working families.

"Cutting the corporate tax rate means more jobs here in the United States," he said. "It will foster increased competition, which will directly drive up wages for our workers."