Achieving comprehensive tax reform will be even more challenging if President Trump continues to refuse to release his personal tax returns, warned Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., during an April 11 press conference.
Americans will question whether Trump’s tax policies are being proposed for his own benefit as long as there’s doubt about what is contained in his tax returns, said Schumer. “So for his own good, he ought to make them public,” Schumer added. “I think he just has an obligation to come clean."
Schumer cited the example of China recently approving 38 trademarks involving the Trump organization as raising a “natural question” about whether it was done to curry favor with Trump on foreign policy. Democrats’ interest in these tax returns is largely born out of a desire to determine if Trump and his businesses have any conflicts of interest with foreign governments, Schumer said.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer punted on a question about when Trump would release his 2016 tax returns during an April 11 briefing. Spicer instead directed attention to Trump’s financial disclosures, which he said “gives a much more comprehensive understanding” of Trump’s finances. He also referenced the ongoing IRS audit of Trump’s tax returns, and suggested that the American people and companies are more concerned with the effects of tax reform than Trump’s tax returns.
Progress on Healthcare
The White House and Republican lawmakers are getting “closer and closer every day” on a healthcare reform deal, according to Spicer.
When asked about comments from Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., on Republicans being “very close” on a healthcare deal and on two reform options being presented to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., Spicer declined to say if the White House had signed off on either of those options. He added that the provisions being discussed are “consistent with our philosophy of giving more competition and more choice to the people in the states.”
“I think we’re good with the direction that this is going as long as it continues to grow the vote,” Spicer added.
Trump also weighed in on the issue, saying that healthcare legislation has to precede tax reform, according to excerpts from an interview slated to air Wednesday on the Fox Business Network.
Trump and several of his Cabinet members met earlier on April 11 with a group of CEOs to discuss how to grow the economy and modernize government.
In prepared remarks at the second meeting of the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum, Trump discussed the U.S. corporate tax rate being the highest among developed nations. “For too long we’ve punished production in America and rewarded companies for leaving our country, and we’re going to reverse that,” he said. The meeting included small group discussions between Cabinet members and the business leaders on topics including infrastructure, trade, education, and regulatory reform.
Following the meeting, forum Chair and Blackstone Group CEO Stephen A. Schwarzman said in an interview with Bloomberg Television that he still wasn’t certain when the president would release his tax reform plan, but he noted that the White House's approach would be different than the path taken on healthcare reform. “I expect a much more deliberate, logical approach than trying to pass healthcare in 17 days,” Schwarzman said. “That is not going to happen in tax here, which is good for everyone.”
Schwarzman also said that Trump is still seeking comprehensive tax reform, not just tax cuts. “I think just reducing taxes, that’s just the fallback,” he said.
Earlier in the day, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway in an interview with Fox Business Network echoed comments made by National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn on April 7 that tax reform might extend past the August recess in Congress. Tax reform will still get done sometime this year, but “we don’t rush things here based on artificial timelines,” Conway said. She also said that the White House “would love to have support from Democrats” on all parts of the president's agenda.