Trump and conservatives try to put bitterness aside to close a tax deal

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: House Freedom House Speaker United States Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC) speaks with reporters after meeting with his committee members about their votes on a possible repeal of Obamacare in the Capitol in Washington.

By Roberta Rampton, Richard Cowan and Amanda Becker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Crude sentiment and mistrust could be an obstacle for President Donald Trump and hardline conservative lawmakers in his Republican Party as they try to recover from the defeat of health legislation by reforming the U.S. tax code. .

Trump has accused Freedom Caucus lawmakers of snatching a “defeat from the jaws of victory” with his rejection of the White House-backed health care bill to replace President Barack’s 2010 health reform bill. Obama

In interviews with 10 of the roughly three dozen members of the House Freedom Caucus, lawmakers said they were eager to put aside tensions over the health care debacle and seek common ground on tax reform.

But there is no consensus, even within the conservative faction, on the details of a tax reform bill, and some members are open to discussing ideas such as the border tax plan supported by House leaders and others opposed to it. the.

Representative Warren Davidson, a member of the Ohio Freedom Caucus, said Republicans should put the blame game aside and resolve their political differences before launching tax reform.

“Some people are still in that stage of hurt feelings and frustration,” Davidson said. “I think it’s smart to take the time to get it right.”

Republican Rep. David Schweikert of Arizona, a Freedom Caucus lawmaker who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee drafting taxes, could emerge as a bridge between the conservative faction and House leaders. The panel will work closely with the House leadership on the tax bill.

Schweikert said he planned to consult with rank-and-file members to discuss plans and hear their priorities.

He said giving companies incentives to invest in plant and equipment was one of the items on his own wish list.

“My personal fixation is very simple: What maximizes economic growth?” Schweikert said.

CUTS, CUTS AND MORE CUTS

Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus, said the group “does not have a formal position” on the structure of the tax reform legislation.

But Meadows listed the top priorities on his own wish list: “Lower taxes, lower taxes, and lower taxes.”

A 35-page plan developed by House Republican leaders, known as the “Better Way,” will serve as a starting point for discussions on tax reform.

The plan calls for streamlining the income tax system and lowering the corporate income tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent. It would exclude export earnings from taxable income and impose a 20 percent tax on imports.

The border tax proposal has divided the business community and is a tipping point for lawmakers. Big exporters like General Electric (NYSE 🙂 Co say the tax would boost manufacturing and jobs. But retailers like Target Corp (NYSE 🙂 have said that the border tax would raise consumer prices and hurt the economy.

Trump, a businessman who had never held public office until he took office in the White House on January 20, has at times praised the border tax idea, but at other times he has been evasive.

Virginia Congressman Dave Brat said he would insist the tax bill would not increase the deficit, while Meadows said he would not necessarily insist on that.

Other conservatives said they needed more information on the tax bill to form an opinion, and some room in the controversial health care debate.

“We just had a major battle over a Republican welfare plan and that has largely consumed my time and mental effort,” said Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks.

“When we have a tax reform bill that I can evaluate, that’s when I’ll start voting on it,” Brooks said.

As a sign of the tensions that persisted after the collapse of the healthcare bill, lawmakers from the Freedom Caucus faced harsh questioning from colleagues during a closed-door meeting of House Republicans on Tuesday, said Rep. Randy Weber of Texas.

But Weber said some of the friction eased by the end of the meeting, prompting House Speaker Paul Ryan to say that more give and take could have been helpful in the healthcare effort.

“Ryan said, ‘This is what we should have been doing,'” Weber told Reuters.

Republican Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, a member of the Freedom Caucus, said he believes lawmakers learned lessons from the defeat of health care that could be applied to tax reform.

“I think people are going to work harder to get to ‘yes’ in this next legislation,” Buck said.

A Reuters / Ipsos opinion poll released Wednesday showed Republicans primarily blame Congress, and not Trump or party leaders, for failing to pass the health care review.