Cohn, Mnuchin visit Capitol Hill to discuss tax reform
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 Ryan (R-Wis.) and Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (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 Cantwell (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.
Senator Cantwell said after meeting that Mnuchin and Cohn are trying to convince House Rs that border adjustment tax is a bad idea.
— Alan Rappeport (@arappeport) May 17, 2017
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (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 Wyden (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 Cornyn (R-Texas).
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