Columns

Freedom Caucus Chairman: 'Very Aggressive Timeframe' on Tax Reform a Challenge

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and caucus founder Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) walk through Statuary Hall at the Capitol on Sept. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON – House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told PJM that the Trump administration’s Thanksgiving deadline for passage of tax reform is “a very aggressive timeframe” because there are not many legislative days remaining on the congressional calendar.

Congress will be in session for 32 days before Thanksgiving, leaving 47 legislative days before the end of the year.

Over the summer, Meadows said Republicans in Congress would not get tax reform done before the end of the year if they wait until September to begin the process.

“If we are waiting until September that means we will not get tax reform, guys, if we’re waiting until September. You guys have all been around. If we wait until September that means that we get legislative text maybe in October, that means that we maybe get it out of here if it’s fast-tracked by the end of October, which means that it goes over to the Senate and it sits there,” Meadows said on July 13.

“There’s zero chance that gets enacted into law before the end of the year. I think the tax cut needs to be retroactive so we get the economy moving right away,” he added.

Since October is around the corner, PJM asked Meadows on Tuesday if he believes they will be able to pass tax reform before the end of the year.

“They’ve started the process. We’re just not aware of the process that was started, to be clear,” Meadows replied. “I can say that if we don’t mark it up and we don’t actually this done out of Ways and Means and sent over to the Senate and they are not working on a parallel path, you know, the time remaining is not much.”

Meadows said his “initial goal” for tax reform passage was before Thanksgiving.

“I can tell you that [National Economic Council Director] Gary Cohn and [Treasury Secretary] Steve Mnuchin still have that as their target date of trying to get it done and signed into law by Thanksgiving – it’s a very aggressive timeframe based on what’s happened over the last few months and decisions need to be made,” he said. “So I’m hopeful that tomorrow real decisions will be made and I’ve given the analogy for some, you know, they’ve been working on trying to put a puzzle together, but they haven’t had the borders.”

Meadows made the comments in advance of House Republican leadership releasing the caucus’ framework for tax reform today.

“It’s like throwing a thousand pieces out on the table and trying to put these pieces together,” the chairman added. “We need to at least have all the border figured out so that we can start to put together the picture on the inside and that’s the way that you would actually work a puzzle – that’s the way that you should be working tax reform. So, hopefully tomorrow we will get the borders without the border adjustment tax.”

Meadows, who has discussed tax reform with President Trump, was asked if Trump is going to keep the upper income tax rates the same or reduce them.

“The president has made no personal commitments to me on what he is going to do on that upper bracket. I can tell you that he is real focused on trying to make sure we lower the rates for the majority of the hardworking American taxpayers that came out on Nov. 8 and voted for him, and it’s all about making sure there’s job security and more money in their pockets,” he replied.

“Where those individual rates go really is still in flux, I think, even as of today I don’t know that those have been determined. I don’t anticipate we will go a whole lot of detail on those individual rates tomorrow in our retreat,” he added.

The GOP tax retreat is today at the National Defense University in Washington. Vice President Mike Pence is expected to attend.

Currently, the top two income tax brackets for individuals and families are 35 percent and 39.6 percent.