Hill Roundtable: Mnuchin Hearings, Slow Pace on Tax Reform

Those looking for more details on a tax reform plan from the White House didn’t get any fresh insight when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin appeared before the two tax-writing committees on the Hill this week to discuss the president’s budget request.

Tax reporter Laura Davison and I chatted with host Matthew Beddingfield for the latest episode of the Talking Tax podcast to discuss their week on Capitol Hill and the prospects for tax reform legislation.

Mnuchin’s statements to the committees and his conversations with lawmakers made it clear that the White House has serious reservations about a 20 percent import tax in the House GOP tax plan’s border adjustment provision. House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) is looking at writing transition rules to soften the blow, as several Republicans on his own committee continue to have doubts about the provision.

And with Congress leaving for the Memorial Day recess, some lawmakers are openly fretting about the chances of tax reform slipping away. One of them is Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), a member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, who is suggesting a “whip count” among House Republicans to see how many members of the caucus support border adjustability. When asked about the idea, Brady dismissed it with an emphatic “no.”

Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is also concerned about the slow crawl on tax reform, suggesting during the Mnuchin hearing that a detailed proposal might arrive in 2075. Wyden has also been telling reporters that drug-store receipts have more detail than President Trump’s tax plan.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more tax reform details and colorful descriptions from Sen. Wyden.