Ryan: House could pass bill that doesn't include border tax

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash storm hits Capitol Hill Debate with Donald Trump? Just say no Ex-Trump adviser says GOP needs a better health-care message for 2020 MORE (R-Wis.) said Wednesday that he can see a scenario in which the House passes a tax reform bill that does not include a border-adjustment tax.

"That's the kind of conversation we're having [with the White House and the Senate]," Ryan said at an event hosted by Axios.

The border-adjustment tax (BAT), which would tax imports and exempt exports, was a key part of the tax plan Ryan released last year, but it is facing mounting opposition.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin publicly expressed concerns about the BAT at an event Tuesday hosted by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, and he reportedly told House Freedom Caucus members in a private meeting that President Trump opposes the BAT. Additionally, Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee were divided over the BAT during a hearing on the topic Tuesday.

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Ryan said that congressional Republicans and the White House agree on about 80 percent of the elements of tax reform and are discussing how to broaden the tax base to pay for lower tax rates.

"A border adjustment basically taxes the trade deficit, gets you revenue to lower your tax rates," he said. "If you're not going to tax our trade deficit, like every other country does, then you'll have to get your base broadening from within the country. And that's the kind of conversation we're going to have all summer long."

Ryan said that he spoke Tuesday night to Mnuchin and Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). The Speaker said that the White House doesn't back the BAT in its current form, and Ryan agrees.

"We know that there are import-sensitive industries, retailers, that could be severely disrupted if this is done the wrong way," Ryan said.

Ryan continued to speak positively about the border-adjustment proposal, however, saying it's designed to treat imports and domestic-made goods equally.

"That's the point we're trying to make here," he said. "Let's equalize the tax treatment of American-made goods and services so they're not put at a competitive disadvantage."

The Speaker also said he's optimistic that Congress and the White House can get a tax reform bill enacted this year.

"We feel confident we can do that," he said.