President Trump on Sunday afternoon urged House Republicans on a conference call to rally behind a Senate-passed budget bill, touting it as the quickest way to enact sweeping tax cuts later this year without Democratic support.
“We are on the verge of doing something very, very historic,” Trump told GOP lawmakers, adding that success on tax cuts could provide a springboard to action on other shared legislative priorities, according to a Republican familiar with the call.
Following multiple failed attempts to overhaul the health-care system, Republicans are eager for a marquee legislative victory and see tax reform as their best shot at working with Trump to deliver on a major campaign promise.
During the call, Trump and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) argued that passing the revised Senate budget this week provides the best shot to get a tax bill enacted by the end of the year, according to participants.
Republican leaders argued that is the better alternative at this point to negotiating with the Senate to resolve differences with the House’s fiscal blueprint.
Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, said passage of the Senate budget could occur this week.
Such a move “may save as many as 10 or 12 legislative days,” Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said during an appearance earlier Sunday on “Fox News Sunday.” He called that prospect a “big deal.”
In a bid to build momentum for taking that course, Trump and Vice President Pence joined the House GOP call.
A senior administration official familiar with the call said Trump spoke for about 10 minutes and delivered what amounted to a pep talk, “cheering everyone on.”
The budget adopted by the Senate will allow the Republican-led chamber to pass a tax bill through the “reconciliation” process, which prevents Democrats from mounting a filibuster against the legislation. That would allow passage with 50 votes instead of the 60 needed to cut off a filibuster. There are 52 Republicans in the chamber.
Even so, Trump expressed hope that a tax bill would attract some Democratic votes, said the administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a call that was not open to reporters.
The official said Trump also said action on the tax bill could lead to other victories, including promised legislation to spur $1 trillion in investment in the nation’s roads and other infrastructure, as well as welfare reform.
He also said passage of the tax bill would set Republicans up well for the 2018 midterm elections, the official said.
Significant differences between the House and Senate blueprints could have presented a stumbling block. Most notably, the House version authorized a tax overhaul that does not add to the deficit, while the Senate approach increases the deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. But most conservative hard-liners in the House, a group that has raised concerns in the past about deficit spending, appeared to be inclined to accept the Senate version in the interest of accelerating work on a tax overhaul.
The actual writing and selling of a bill still poses significant challenges in the coming weeks, however. Even with the wiggle room that the Senate budget gives lawmakers to add to the deficit, Republicans need to find massive amounts of new revenue. That’s because their tax-cutting wish list tips the scales at an estimated $5 trillion.
Tapping any meaningful source of new money means pinching one constituency or another. Asked Sunday about a New York Times report that Republicans are considering capping what workers can contribute tax-free to their 401(k) retirement accounts, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) demurred. “We’re just beginning the process of actually crafting the bills,” he said in an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It’s way too early to predict the various details.”
Nevertheless, congressional Republicans are eyeing an aggressive schedule for moving a tax package. House Republicans are aiming to unveil, amend and pass a bill by mid-November.
In addition to joining the conference call, Trump penned an editorial published in USA Today on Sunday — the 31st anniversary of the last major overhaul of the tax code, he noted. He said that it is imperative “to ignite America’s middle class miracle once again.”
Trump is also set to press the point in person when he joins Senate Republicans on Tuesday for their weekly lunch at the Capitol.