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Trump Spurs Congress to Overhaul US Taxes

  • Ken Bredemeier

President Donald Trump meets with a bipartisan group of members of Congress, including Representative Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., at left, and Representative Tom Reed, R-N.Y., at the White House in Washington, Sept. 13, 2017.

President Donald Trump is spurring Congress to move quickly to overhaul the country's complex tax code, but he has yet to produce a plan.

Trump, in a pair of Twitter comments Wednesday, took on the role of White House cheerleader for tax changes, telling lawmakers that with the devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, tax cuts and tax reform were "needed more than ever before. Go Congress, go!"

In another tweet, Trump said the tax approval process "for the biggest Tax Cut & Tax Reform package in the history of our country will soon begin. Move fast Congress!"

Later, Trump told reporters he was still hoping to cut the U.S. corporate tax rate to 15 percent from 35 percent and "much lower than that for individuals." He said tax rates for wealthy Americans "will be pretty much where they are" now.

Trump had a White House dinner Tuesday with several senators, including three Democrats he hopes will join the majority Republicans in Congress to support tax changes: Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.

The White House said the meeting was "highly productive, and will spur constructive discussion moving forward."

It said the tax cuts, particularly ones aimed at helping middle-class families, are "essential to economic growth and prosperity. Through bipartisan outreach efforts like this, President Trump is demonstrating his commitment to fulfilling his promises, and that includes producing tangible results on important issues like tax reform."

On Wednesday night, Trump has scheduled another White House dinner, to talk about tax changes and other issues with the top two Democratic lawmakers, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, leader of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, said a tax overhaul, not just tax cuts, was necessary to spur American economic growth.

"The problem is we have a 1986 tax system in the 21st century and the rest of the world has already overhauled their tax systems many times since," Ryan said. "And we’re now on the receiving end in the global economy with the worst tax system in the industrialized world. So it’s not just narrow cuts and taxes that will do the job."

He said the U.S. economy, already the world's biggest, "has so much untapped potential. And one of the reasons, I’d say the biggest reason, why we have untapped potential is because we’re weighing down our economy with a terrible tax system.”

Trump's Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, and his top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, both former Wall Street financiers, have met with dozens of lawmakers, mostly Republicans, in an effort to create a tax overhaul that Congress could agree on after Republicans earlier this year failed to adopt a plan to repeal the health care policies championed by former President Barack Obama. Eight months into his presidency, Trump has yet to win approval for any major piece of legislation.

Trump administration officials said they hoped to release a tax plan within a week and that Congress would approve it by the end of the year.

Corporate tax cut

Numerous economic experts have said that making the kind of sharp cut in the corporate tax rate that Trump wants is not possible without eliminating or sharply trimming popular deductions elsewhere in the country's complex tax code or adding to the country's nearly $20 trillion in long-term debt.

Lawmakers could eventually agree on a smaller cut in the corporate tax rate, which Trump says needs to be trimmed to make American corporations more competitive on world markets.

All American workers would also be affected by any substantial changes in tax policies. The Trump administration and Republican lawmakers are considering limiting one widely used personal income tax deduction, for interest on loans people have taken out to buy their homes, and could also eliminate a federal income tax deduction for taxes paid to state and local governments. Both ideas could face opposition in Congress.

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