- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A leading House conservative said Wednesday that Congress must pass “bold” tax reform before December or it won’t happen, saying lawmakers will get skittish about rocking the boat during an election year if the issue drags into 2018.

Other congressional leaders have said the goal is action by year’s end, but Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican, went a step further and said lawmakers will lose their chance to do anything meaningful whatsoever if the process drags into next year.

“If it doesn’t get to the president’s desk by Thanksgiving … it isn’t going to happen,” Mr. Meadows, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said at an event at the Newseum.

After the collapse of the GOP’s push to repeal Obamacare, pressure is mounting to score a win on a big legislative package, and a tax code overhaul is the best option.

Top administration and congressional Republicans last week released a series of principles they said would guide them, but there’s been little sense of agreement on the details.

Mr. Meadows said he is still optimistic about ultimately getting something done, but said it’s going to take considerable pressure from grass-roots activists to keep pokey lawmakers on an ambitious timeline of moving legislation through the House in October.

“The minute we go past January, everybody starts saying ‘well, we can’t do anything too bold,’” Mr. Meadows said. “It’s the political reality in those midterm years. Everything starts to slow down and you do things around the edges.”

Marc Short, the White House’s top legislative liaison, laid out a similarly “aggressive” timeline earlier in the week, saying they hope to be moving legislation through the House in October and the Senate in November.

“Let’s get this done this year. If it drifts into ‘18, it gets a whole lot harder, so that’s what we’re aiming for,” Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, said Wednesday.

Mr. Meadows said he wants Congress to shoot for a corporate rate of lower than 20 percent — down from the current rate of 35 percent — and rejected the notion of accepting a higher rate if it meant a smoother passage for the final product.

“Go bold, and the minute you start negotiating like that you’re negotiating against yourself,” he told reporters afterward. “I made a very good living negotiating. I would never agree to that.”

He also said he wants any reforms to be made retroactive to the beginning of the year so they can immediately jump-start the economy.

“If we wait until next year, then what happens is we don’t get the economy going for another full year,” he said.

Mr. Meadows and his caucus of some three-dozen hardline conservatives wield considerable influence in the House. With no Democratic support, opposition from enough Freedom Caucus members would be enough to sink any tax package.

He said support will come down to the details.

“We actually need the text of what we’re talking about so that we can start going through that and figure out what’s good and bad,” he said.

Tax reform is just one item on an already packed scheduled for Congress in the fall. Lawmakers need to pass legislation to fund the government past Sept. 30, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin recently gave them a Sept. 29 deadline to raise the debt ceiling.

The Freedom Caucus has demanded that any increase in the debt ceiling be accompanied with spending cuts, but Mr. Meadows said it will ultimately get raised one way or another.

“We will raise the debt ceiling, and there shouldn’t be any fear of that,” he said.

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