Conservative army bolsters Trump on tax cuts

Conservative army bolsters Trump on tax cuts
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Conservative groups are going all out to help President Trump and congressional Republicans get a tax-reform bill across the finish line.

Unlike with health care, outside right-leaning groups are united in their support of the GOP tax plan. They believe that unity will help reassure Republican lawmakers when they eventually cast votes on a bill.

“Buy-in from free-market groups and conservative groups is extremely important,” said Jason Pye, vice president of legislative affairs for FreedomWorks.

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Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAEI names Robert Doar as new president GOP can't excommunicate King and ignore Trump playing to white supremacy and racism House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King MORE (R-Wis.) urged conservatives on Thursday to push back against criticisms of the tax plan from liberals and lobbyists.

“An army of lobbyists will come to protect the special interest provisions and to derail tax reform,” he said at an event at the Heritage Foundation. “And when that army comes, we must be able to count on the foot soldiers of the conservative movement to see this thing through.”

Even before Ryan issued his call, groups had been pushing back against attacks and explaining why they believe the plan will benefit the middle class and the economy.

Several right-leaning groups have been running advertisements on taxes.

The American Action Network (AAN), which is closely aligned with Ryan, has spent more than $11 million since Aug. 1. Many of the ads have featured testimonials from people who argue that tax cuts for the middle class would improve their lives.

Freedom Partners, which is supported by Republican mega-donors Charles and David Koch, launched an ad and a webpage to push back against lobbyists who are opposed to aspects of the plan. The website, NoMoreCorporateWelfare.com, highlights groups that it believes are hindering tax reform by name — including several groups in the real estate and renewable energy sectors.

Another group in the Koch network, Americans for Prosperity, recently announced a $4.5 million ad buy urging several Democratic senators up for reelection next year to back the GOP’s tax-reform efforts.

Conservative groups have also sent letters to Congress expressing their support for the tax framework, and have been meeting regularly with each other and with policymakers. Leaders of prominent right-leaning groups have also been promoting the GOP’s tax efforts on TV and radio, and groups have been engaging in grass-roots efforts to connect conservative constituents with their lawmakers.

Many conservatives were unsatisfied with Republicans’ bills to repeal and replace ObamaCare, arguing that they didn’t do enough to undo the 2010 health-care law.

But on taxes, free-market groups are supportive of the framework congressional GOP leaders and the White House released in September, which calls for reducing the number of individual tax brackets, slashing rates for businesses and eliminating many of the tax breaks in the current code.

“The momentum is much different than health care,” AAN Executive Director Corry Bliss said.

The enthusiasm from conservatives could help GOP lawmakers to feel like an eventual tax bill is popular, making them more likely to vote in favor of it.

Lawmakers “need to hear from the validators,” said Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist.

Heritage Action for America Vice President Dan Holler said that it will be valuable for lawmakers to know that their conservative constituents have their backs if they vote for a measure opposed by key industry groups.

And when Democrats attack Republican lawmakers — including those in swing districts — on taxes, it’s valuable for the Congress members to know “that Republicans, conservatives and independents are for this, and the left is just fear-mongering,” Holler added.

Conservative groups also plan to keep the heat on lawmakers who are hesitating on voting for a tax bill because they’re worried about upsetting an interest group.

“We kind of want to hold everyone’s feet to the fire,” said Andy Roth, vice president of government affairs at the Club for Growth.

Republicans have yet to win a major legislative victory since Trump took office, and conservatives view passage of tax legislation as crucial both for improving people’s lives and for GOP lawmakers politically ahead of the midterm elections.

“I think that Congress understands that this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” Freedom Partners spokesman Bill Riggs said.

Earlier in the year, there were divisions among right-leaning groups, with some finding Ryan’s border-adjustment proposal to tax imports and exempt exports acceptable and others working to defeat it.

But since Ryan and other tax negotiators agreed to drop the border-adjustment proposal, conservative groups have had more consensus on taxes and have been more enthusiastically championing lawmakers’ endeavors.

The framework has helped provide conservatives with a sense of where lawmakers and the White House are headed with a bill  — unlike with health care, where there was no similar outline.

“The reason that conservative groups are lined up at least behind the framework is because we have tangible details in advance,” said Pye.

Lawmakers have yet to release a bill and provide all the details of legislation’s contents, so there is still potential for more tensions to flare up.

But Pye said he didn’t see evidence that conservative groups would be divided following the release of legislative text.

For example, it’s possible that a bill would keep the top rate for individuals at 39.6 percent and Republicans have traditionally wanted to lower rates across the board. However, Pye said that keeping the top individual rate flat is less of a concern for conservatives than it could have been because Republicans also plan to lower the top rate for “pass-through” businesses whose income is taxed through the individual code.