- The Washington Times - Monday, May 22, 2017

Republicans need to get moving — and “go big” — on repealing Obamacare, overhauling the tax code and rolling back Obama-era environmental regulations, a top conservative grass-roots leader said Monday, warning that voters could stay home if the GOP doesn’t give them a reason to turn out.

“They waited a long time to have unified government, and expectations are high,” said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, which advocates for a more streamlined government. “If they’re going to get the economy going again and make the base excited about 2018, they’ve got to accomplish those three.”

He said Congress and President Trump haven’t proved themselves on taxes and spending and had an early stumble on Obamacare that still worries conservatives, though he said the GOP is off to a good start on rolling back regulations.

Mr. Trump has signed an executive order directing the dismantling of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the framework for the previous administration’s attempt to set greenhouse gas emissions rules for power plants across the country. And Congress and the White House combined to enact more than a dozen repeals of last-minute Obama-era regulations.

“On the regulatory reform front, they get an A+,” Mr. Phillips told The Washington Times. “You can always do more and we’re hoping for that, but they’re off to a great start.”

But it “remains to be seen” on taxes and spending, he said, noting that with Democratic buy-in for tax reform unlikely, his group’s newest lobbying push on that front is focused more on spurring on the GOP.

Americans for Prosperity is one of the more influential conservative lobbies, pressuring members of Congress through statements and ad campaigns to tilt to the right on free-market principles.

AFP was one of the most vocal opponents of the House GOP’s original Obamacare repeal bill, helping stiffen conservative spines and dooming the initial version. But an updated bill has helped revive the effort, moving it in a better direction, Mr. Phillips said.

“From the perspective of base voters, they expected a repeal of Obamacare — that was the number one promise that was made consistently,” he said. “And so the expectations are high on health care.”

He said he hopes the Senate moves relatively quickly on the issue but acknowledged the upper chamber would likely take its time after the House labored to pass its updated bill earlier this month. He also said he hopes the Senate doesn’t forgo the big changes conservatives won in the House bill.

AFP has a national network of affiliates, and recently brought state directors to the capital to press members of Congress, particularly in the House, to pursue tax reform this year. The group is also holding “day of action” call days and going door-to-door targeting conservatives and activists, and urging them to contact their representatives to say they want to see tax reform happen in 2017.

“They own everything this time. They can do it. Now’s the time to go big,” Mr. Phillips said of the GOP. “We’re all in. We think it can happen this year.”

Mr. Phillips said that demands more than a “pale pastel” tax reform.

“If it’s a minor tinkering and they kind of call it a day after some tinkering around the edges, that’s not good enough to get this economy [growing] again,” he said.

The White House and congressional Republicans generally agree they want to see corporate and individual income taxes lowered, though the White House has called for reducing the corporate rate to 15 percent from 35 percent, compared to the GOP blueprint that lowers it to 20 percent.

A White House outline also calls for lowering the top individual rate to 35 percent, from 39.6 percent, compared to 33 percent in the House Republican blueprint.

Mr. Phillips said House Republicans should drop their push for a “border adjustment” tax on imports his group has vocally opposed, and said all parties should focus on the areas where they generally agree. Senate Republicans and the White House have also been cool on the border tax idea.

“We think that the closer to an election you get, the more difficult it becomes, and so we do think it can happen this year and we’re pushing hard for it,” he said.

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