The “Big Six” of top congressional Republicans and White House officials have agreed to a detailed tax reform blueprint that is being reviewed by House and Senate lawmakers and will soon be unveiled to the public, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said August 31.
The new plan will be released in the next few weeks, Mnuchin told The Wall Street Journal. While acknowledging that “it’s not a 100-page bill with every single detail,” Mnuchin reportedly indicated that the blueprint will go far beyond the one-page tax reform outlinethe White House issued in April and the even vaguer joint statement of principles the Big Six put out July 27.
The Big Six — Mnuchin, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady, R-Texas — will meet with President Trump at the White House September 5 “to discuss their ongoing work and the legislative path forward,” a Ways and Means spokesperson confirmed to Tax Analysts.
In a separate interview with CNBC, Mnuchin denied that Trump’s tax reform speech of the previous day was a sales pitch for a plan that does not yet exist. “There absolutely is a package” for tax reform, Mnuchin told the network, later saying that the six principals “have a very detailed plan.”
“What the president is focused on is explaining to the American public why tax reform is important,” Mnuchin said. “We’ve been working on the details.”
Mnuchin said he and his GOP counterparts wanted to “make sure that there was one plan, with the administration, the House, and the Senate. We’ve done that.” The process has shifted to Congress, he added.
“The House and the Senate are now socializing the plan with their members,” Mnuchin said. “We’re going to release a blueprint, and it’s going to go to committee, and we’re going to turn this into a bill which the president will sign.”
One of the issues Mnuchin said lawmakers will have to hash out is whether tax reform will be revenue neutral — and by what standard. Exploring that caveat in new detail, the Treasury head gave a nod to his department’s less conservative macroeconomic impact models, as well as growing Republican interest in using a current-policy baseline for tax reform rather than a current-law baseline.
Mnuchin appeared to tacitly endorse a current-policy baseline for tax reform, pointing to what he called an “excellent” Wall Street Journal editorial urging Republicans to adopt that stance. “These are technical issues that we’re working with Congress on,” he said.
“When you talk about revenue neutrality, it depends on how you score it,” the secretary said when pressed further on the issue. “Under our models, we are absolutely committed to revenue neutrality — that doesn’t mean that it has to be revenue neutral . . . if we don’t get the incorporated growth. But these are the discussions that, as it passes through the congressional process, are going to be debated and decided.”
Mnuchin also reiterated that tax reform is still a 2017 project. “We’re on a track to get this done by the end of the year, so you’re going to see the details come out later this month,” he told CNBC, presumably referring to September.
Asked about Trump’s comment during the speech that the statutory business tax rate would “ideally” fall to 15 percent, Mnuchin tried to validate that goal while managing expectations. “Our objective is to get down to 15 percent,” he told CNBC.
“Now, having said that,” Mnuchin continued, “I think, as you know, there’s a bunch of different levers that we can move. And we’ve gone through the different scenarios and the different levers, and these are the things that are being socialized with members, and we’ll go through with the committees, and we’ll see where we end up.”
Regardless of how far the business rate falls, Mnuchin emphasized, “what’s most important is that we end up with a competitive rate and [territorial international] system, and that’s what we’ve heard from literally hundreds and hundreds of businesspeople.” This was likely a reference to the months of regular tax reform listening sessions the White House held with executives and stakeholders from various industries.
Asha Glover contributed to this article.
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