Action on Trump’s tax cut plan could be delayed until next year
The White House’s push to quickly pass a major package of tax cuts through Congress is facing a fall calendar full of legislative land mines, potentially delaying a key part of President Trump’s agenda into at least 2018.
The Trump administration sees tax cuts as an achievable victory after a string of failed attempts to pass other parts of the president’s legislative agenda, as well as a proposal that could unite a party fractured over Senate Republicans’ failure last week to vote through a repeal of parts of the Affordable Care Act.
Trump touted the tax proposal Tuesday in a meeting with business executives, saying his team was “pursuing bold tax cuts” to help companies grow.
“We’re unleashing a new era of American prosperity perhaps like we have never seen it before,” he said at the meeting.
Republican leaders in Congress, however, face a pair of deadlines that are delaying any action on taxes. The current budget is set to expire at the end of September, and unless Congress approves new funding, there will be a partial government shutdown that will close national parks and put hundreds of thousands of federal workers on unpaid leave.
Congress’s most immediate concern, however, is the debt ceiling, which the Treasury Department says must be raised by Sept. 29 to ensure that the government can pay its bills. Failing to raise the ceiling could spark a global financial crisis, leading to a stock market crash, a spike in interest rates and a potential economic recession.
The Senate and House are scheduled to be in session together for a total of just 12 days from now until the debt ceiling deadline, giving them little time to focus on tax cuts.
“September will be a month when the Trump administration faces its most significant test on Capitol Hill,” said Brian Gardner, Washington policy analyst for Keefe Bruyette & Woods, an investment banking firm. “Passing spending bills and raising the debt ceiling must be done.”
Republican leaders face several challenges as they seek to avert a government shutdown or default.
The relationship between President Trump and Senate Republicans has deteriorated so sharply in recent days that some are openly defying his directives, bringing long-simmering tensions to a boil as the GOP labors to reorient its stalled legislative agenda.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), head of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, announced Tuesday that he would work with his Democratic colleagues to “stabilize and strengthen” the individual insurance market under the Affordable Care Act, which the president has badgered the Senate to keep trying to repeal. Alexander also urged the White House to keep up payments to insurers that help low-income consumers afford plans, which Trump has threatened to cut off.
Several Republican senators have sought to distance themselves from the president, who has belittled them as looking like “fools” and tried to strong-arm their agenda and browbeat them into changing a venerated rule to make it easier to ram through legislation along party lines.
Some are describing the dynamic in cold, transactional terms, speaking of Trump as more of a supporting actor than the marquee leader of the Republican Party. If he can help advance their plans, then great, they say. If not, so be it.
“We work for the American people. We don’t work for the president,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said. He added, “We should do what’s good for the administration as long as that does not in any way, shape or form make it harder on the American people.”