President Trump’s lunch on Capitol Hill today appears to have been peaceful and productive. But, as has been the case since his inauguration, substantive discussions about tax reform or other priorities are drowned out by the sound and sight of Trump’s own self-inflicted distractions (more about the Trump-Corker saga later). The good news is that, today’s tweets notwithstanding, it looks like the Republican universe — between allied groups and surrogates from within and outside the administration — is finally developing a more effective voice for tax reform.
In an opinion piece published in USA Today on Sunday, Trump wrote, “Our economy cannot take off like it should unless we transform our outdated, complex and burdensome tax code, and that is exactly what we are proposing to do.” For now, at least, he appears to be engaged with the matter at hand. Trump is phoning key members of Congress, lunching with the GOP caucus and trying to do his part.
The White House is pulling out all the stops to make the case for tax reform. Speaking to Fox News’ Sean Hannity last night, Ivanka Trump made a compelling case: “Ultimately we need growth, and that’s going to come by ensuring this is the country everybody wants to grow their businesses in.” Supply-side Ivanka! Who knew?
At the same time, GOP-allied groups are pushing the same message, spending millions of dollars on pro-tax-reform initiatives. The American Action Network, for instance, is targeting 32 key congressional districts in its latest multimillion-dollar ad buy. And according to Politico, the Trump-backed “America First Policies and its allied super PAC, America First Action, have raised about $25 million over the course of the year,” a significant amount of which will be invested in the GOP’s tax-reform pitch. There is a reason, as Politico reported yesterday, that “House Republicans are expected to easily clear the fiscal 2018 budget, despite the fact that the upper chamber’s version is not as fiscally conservative as the plan the House advanced earlier this month.” And that is because Republicans know that it is tax reform or die.
And yet, with this being the Trump administration, much of the news coverage today is about Trump’s ongoing feud with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). If Trump and Corker were my kids trading insults from the back seat of the car while I was trying to drive, I would tell Corker to knock it off. That may sound unfair, but Corker knows better and Trump does not. Life is unfair.
Anyway, Republicans on Capitol Hill appear to have a more well-coordinated approach in selling tax reform than they likely would have before Chief of Staff John F. Kelly took over at the White House. Kelly has been instrumental in creating greater efficiency in the West Wing, and at least to some degree, I think he deserves credit for the Republican Party’s organized effort to pass tax reform.
Still, I wonder, have we been down this road before? Is all the talk of a united GOP front headed toward a standoff with and anxiety over just three or four Republican senators? And who is to say Trump’s Twitter feed won’t derail the entire process?
Only time will tell, but the consensus is clear. Republicans in Congress must pass tax reform now, while they still have the chance.