President Trump said Tuesday he wants to sign a tax overhaul by Christmas, setting an aggressive timetable for Congress to deliver his first major legislative victory.
“I want the House to pass a bill by Thanksgiving. I want all the people standing by my side when we sign by Christmas, hopefully before Christmas,” Trump said during a meeting with industry leaders at the White House held one day before the House bill is expected to be released.
He vowed the signing ceremony will “be the biggest tax event in the history of our country.”
House Republicans have plotted a speedy course for their legislation, with a committee markup planned for Nov. 6. Their goal is to complete work on the legislation by Thanksgiving.
Senate Republicans have also discussed getting the bill passed by the end of November, though Trump’s timeline hints at a slightly longer timeframe.
There are a series of challenges to the timeframe, from worries about how tax reform might increase the deficit to battles over specific tax provisions, including possible changes to the tax status of 401(k) plans and the deduction of state and local taxes.
Another issue is the special counsel probe of Russia’s election meddling that is hanging over the administration’s head. On Monday, special counsel Robert Mueller brought charges against two of Trump’s former campaign aides and unveiled a guilty plea by another.
The president, who has not shied away from tweeting about the indictments, did not respond to a reporter who asked if he plans to pardon former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, one of two people indicted on Monday.
Mueller’s charges shook Washington and threatened to throw a wrench into congressional Republicans’ plan to unveil their full tax proposal on Wednesday.
After the failure to repeal ObamaCare, tax reform is seen as the last, best hope for Trump to score a big legislative win for next year’s midterm elections.
But many specifics of the plan remain unknown and haggling over them could prove to be an obstacle to passing it through Congress.
House tax writers are reportedly considering gradually phasing in Trump and GOP leaders’ corporate tax-rate cut to 20 percent. The president indicated he opposes such language.
“We’re not looking for that. Hopefully not,” he told reporters.
Trump has inserted himself into the bill-drafting process multiple times, including in debates over a now-scrapped border adjustment tax and changes to 401(k) retirement accounts.
Many Republicans acknowledge the president wants to fight for his priorities, but say such interventions hurt the effort to craft legislation.
Republicans might also be hampered with the president traveling in Asia for nearly two weeks shortly after the tax plan rollout, unable to wield his bully pulpit at home to tout the proposal.
But the president he is asking Cabinet members and top advisers, including Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOvernight Finance: House adopts Senate budget, taking step to tax reform | GOP worries Trump feuds will endanger tax plan | Trump talks NAFTA withdrawal with senators | Treasury calls for looser oversight of insurers New Treasury sanctions target North Korean military, labor camps Trump picks interim replacement to lead IRS MORE and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, to stay behind in the U.S. while he is in Asia to sell the tax plan.
Vice President Pence is expected to participate in the effort as well.
The officials are expected to target states where vulnerable Democrats are running for reelection next year. Trump expressed confidence he could win their votes, despite their criticism that the plan is a giveaway to the wealthy.”
“It doesn’t work and they know that,” Trump said of his opponents. “In fact, I think we’ll have some Democrats joining us and voting [with] us.”