AP interview: Ryan backs off promise not to add to deficitSeptember 14, 2017 8:35am

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Paul Ryan backed off months of promises that the Republicans' tax plan won't add to the nation's ballooning deficit, declaring in an AP Newsmaker interview that the most important goal of an overhaul is economic growth.

Asked twice whether he would insist the emerging tax plan not pile more billions onto the $20 trillion national debt, Ryan passed up the chance to affirm that commitment. GOP leaders made that "revenue neutral" promise in a campaign manifesto last year and many times since.

"We want pro-growth tax reform that will get the economy going, that will get people back to work, that will give middle-income taxpayers a tax cut and that will put American businesses in a better competitive playing field so that we keep American businesses in America," the Wisconsin Republican told Associated Press reporters and editors on Wednesday. "That is more important than anything else."

Ryan's comments signaling possible retreat on a core GOP commitment came amid quickening action on taxes, which Republicans view as their last, best chance to notch a significant accomplishment to take to voters in the 2018 midterm elections following the collapse of their "Obamacare" repeal drive. Yet even as President Donald Trump hunted for Democratic votes for a plan that's not yet taken shape, and GOP leaders laid out an aggressive timetable to lawmakers, significant hurdles remained.

A major one is the GOP's failure, thus far, to pass a federal budget, which under legislative rules is a prerequisite for a tax plan that can avoid being stalled to death by Democrats in the Senate.

Others involve the contents of the tax blueprint itself, which Ryan and his lieutenants envision as a far-reaching reform plan that would significantly lower rates for corporations and individuals while cleaning up the loophole-ridden code. One problem is that every tax deduction has its own constituency, and Ryan has already ruled out eliminating some of the most popular ones, including deductions for home mortgages and charitable giving.

Objections also threaten from the GOP's seemingly shrinking ranks of deficit hawks if Ryan, Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell do try to move forward with a tax plan that could cost hundreds of billions of dollars, without paying for it with cuts in federal spending or some new sources of revenue. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, issued a statement earlier this week calling the debt the "greatest threat to our nation," greater than North Korea, Russia or the Islamic State group.

Ryan made his comments on taxes as he discussed a range of issues with the AP, including immigration, where he pledged to find a solution for the nearly 800,000 immigrants brought to this country as children and now here illegally. He declared that removing them all is "not in our nation's interest," though he declined to reaffirm his past support for eventual citizenship for the "Dreamers."

He said any immigration solution must include border security measures, though he said a wall along the entire southern border, which Trump has repeatedly urged, doesn't make sense.

On taxes, Trump himself added to the complications when he surprisingly declared, at a meeting with a bipartisan group of House members, that taxes on the wealthy would not go down under the GOP plan and might even go up. Although the administration has not provided specifics on its plan, House Republicans have embraced an approach that would lower the top individual rate from 39.6 percent to 33 percent, which would be enormously beneficial to the wealthiest Americans.

Still, Trump declared, "The rich will not be gaining at all with this plan. We are looking for the middle class and we are looking for jobs — jobs being the economy."

Trump reiterated that he hoped to lower the top corporate tax rate from 35 to 15 percent, something Ryan has already ruled out as impractical — and an idea the president himself has backed off from, according to people with knowledge of a meeting he held Tuesday night with bipartisan senators.

The president added, improbably, that the individual rate would be even lower than that.

The long list of difficulties has led some analysts to conclude that Congress is likelier to settle on straightforward tax cuts than on full-blown reform — if it passes anything at all.

But Ryan rejected that approach, telling the AP, "It's not just narrow cuts in taxes that will do the job."

Referencing tax cuts signed by President George W. Bush, Ryan said, "You can't just do what Bush did in 2001 and 2003. You have to overhaul the system itself to put American businesses and the American economy in a much more competitive situation."

Earlier Wednesday, Ryan and House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady met behind closed doors with GOP lawmakers to lay out a timetable on taxes, pledging a detailed blueprint from top congressional Republicans and administration officials in the final week of September. The goal, which Ryan reiterated Wednesday, is to send Trump a bill to sign before year's end.

The challenges were immediately apparent as House Republicans left the meeting with Ryan and Brady complaining they still didn't know what was going on. And some conservatives were voicing concerns about Trump's newfound fondness for making deals with Democrats, as he did last week on the debt ceiling with House Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

"The problem here is we don't have a clue what's in the tax plan," said Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va. "Now Trump is talking about doing bipartisan stuff with Chuck and Nancy on taxes. And I don't want to open the door to that until we see what this tax plan looks like."

___

Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Richard Lardner, Stephen Ohlemacher and Catherine Lucey contributed.

Page 1 of 1

More Stories Like This

Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorialsEditorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the U.S. and abroad
House Republicans plan retreat next week to discuss tax planHouse Republicans plan a retreat away from the Capitol next week to discuss a tax overhaul that congressional leaders have been working on for month
FILE - In this March 8, 2015, file photo, Jimmy Kimmel arrives at the 32nd Annual Paleyfest : "Scandal" held at The Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Kimmel said on Sept. 19, 2017, that Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy “lied right to my face” by going back on his word to ensure any health care overhaul passes a test the Republican lawmaker named for the late night host.   (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
Trump: GOP health bill short of votes before deadline
In this June 5, 2017 photo, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa. holds up pieces of paper used by U.S. Air Traffic Controllers as he speaks about updating their systems during an Air Traffic Control Reform Initiative event in the East Room at the White House in Washington. President Donald Trump has embraced airlines’ decades-long goal of removing air traffic control operations from the government and putting industry in charge, making it a key part of his agenda to boost the nation’s infrastructure through privatization. And yet, his prospects for closing the deal with Congress appear slim.  (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Prospects for air traffic control privatization appear slim
FILE - In this Thursday, July 13, 2017, file photo, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the Senate Banking Committee. On Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, the Federal Reserve releases its latest monetary policy statement after a two-day meeting. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
3 things to watch for from the Federal Reserve on Wednesday
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined by, from left, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks to reporters as he pushes a last-ditch effort to uproot former President Barack Obama's health care law, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. To win, 50 of the 52 GOP senators must back it _ a margin they failed to reach when the chamber rejected the effort in July. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Winners and losers in GOP's last-ditch health overhaul
AdChoices

Related Searches

Related Searches

AdChoices