Freedom Caucus Demands Tax Details From Republican LeadersBy
Caucus chairman warns of ‘rebellion’ if tax effort fails
Group signals it isn’t planning on releasing its own plan
Leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus are frustrated that Republican leaders haven’t yet released details of their tax overhaul plans, saying they’re concerned that time is running out to deliver on their promise of a revamp.
“At some point you’re going to have to call the play. You’re going to have to get specific,” Representative Mark Meadows, the caucus chairman, said Thursday at a Bloomberg News breakfast. “We can’t answer it if we don’t know what the details are. It’s time to make some decisions and get on with it.”
Meadows said that with a new Dec. 8 deadline to avert a government shutdown and debt default under a deal President Donald Trump struck with congressional leaders on Wednesday, “tax reform needs to happen by Thanksgiving” or it risks failure. “The enemy is time. And time is never defeated.”
The frustrations come as the White House and Republican leaders say they remain hopeful that a comprehensive rewrite of the tax code will pass and get signed into law by the end of 2017. But there’s no legislative text yet, nor are there answers to basic questions such as what individual or corporate tax rates will be, let alone more difficult ones such as if and how the tax cuts will be paid for.
Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a caucus co-founder, said Republicans haven’t received guidance on where tax rates will be set or on tax benefits for businesses such as expensing. “Hope is not a plan. Will someone tell me what the plan is for tax reform?” Jordan asked.
After another meeting of White House officials and congressional leaders involved in the tax negotiations, House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Thursday: “Our tax-writing committees are in the midst of working on the details. This is our number one priority this fall.”
The conservative lawmakers said the Freedom Caucus has had many discussions about tax legislation, and are convinced Trump is all-in on it. The group has been floating the idea of a 16 percent corporate rate and members would support a tax bill featuring cuts that add to the deficit. But they said they don’t have their own detailed tax plan currently, and weren’t planning on pitching one during a meeting Thursday at the White House with Marc Short, director of legislative affairs.
“Here’s what I learned in the Army: the leader is responsible for everything that happens or fails to happen,” said Representative Warren Davidson of Ohio. “That’s what leaders do. Leaders lead.”
Ryan said Thursday during a New York Times event that he would leave it up to the tax writers in the House and Senate to release their template of a tax overhaul. He also said it would be difficult for the corporate rate to be slashed to the “teens.” Trump has repeatedly called for cutting the business rate to 15 percent.
“Our goal is to be at or below the industrial world average” which is 22.5 percent, Ryan said.
Meadows cautioned that “there’s going to be rebellion against everybody” -- including House leadership -- if Republicans finish the year without delivering on any of their major campaign promises.
“If we get to December and we’ve not repealed and replaced Obamacare, we’ve not built the wall, we’ve not done tax reform, let me just tell you it’s not going to be pretty some 8 or 9 months after that in terms of reelection,” he said.
— With assistance by Anna Edgerton