The flurry of activity on tax reform this week has raised expectations that Congress is going to start moving legislation this fall, after months of negotiations between top Republican lawmakers and the White House.
Two of the “Big Six” negotiators — House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — will be appearing Thursday at the inaugural POLITICO Pro Policy Summit at a crucial point in the process.
Brady has laid out a timeline for the coming month that includes the release of more details of a plan the week of Sept. 25, getting a budget that would carry tax language done by mid-October, and then having his committee start work on the legislation.
With President Donald Trump raising expectations that tax reform could be a bipartisan affair, Brady will be joined at the summit by the top Ways and Means Democrat, Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts. Despite Trump’s overtures to Democrats this week, Neal is skeptical, though he didn’t rule anything out.
“It is discouraging that Republicans have yet to include Democrats in meaningful discussions on tax reform,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “I believe, however, that there is still time for actual bipartisanship in this process, and I’m hopeful Republicans will include Democrats — expanding their so-called ‘Big Six’ to a ‘Big Ten’ — so that we can work together to provide tax relief for our middle class, invest in community colleges and infrastructure and close loopholes that only benefit the wealthy and big corporations.”
Mnuchin has said the administration isn’t backing down from its ambitious timeline of getting tax reform done by the end of the year.
Many insiders believe that getting something done that quickly will require Republicans to trim their sails and just do a package of tax cuts. But House Speaker Paul Ryan and Mnuchin have said they want to overhaul the system.
Despite all the talk of impending progress, GOP lawmakers must still clear numerous hurdles to get legislation on track, namely, approving a budget. Assuming they would get little or no support from Democrats, Republicans plan to use a budgetary tactic known as reconciliation that would allow them to short-circuit a Democratic filibuster in the Senate.
The budget is already causing headaches for House Republicans, with some hard-line conservatives demanding to see details of tax reform before they vote on a budget.
“We will guarantee that we have enough information before we vote for the budget,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said after GOP lawmakers met with Brady on Wednesday.
Aaron Lorenzo contributed to this report.
Brady and Neal will be discussing tax reform with moderator Ben White from 1:15 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. White will interview Mnuchin at 4:15 p.m. to 4:40 pm. You can watch both here.