Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin got a swift rebuttal after he went on national television to claim a hypothetical Indiana family would save $1,000 under President Donald Trump’s tax plan.
It came from a fellow cabinet member. At virtually the same time on another network, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney dismissed as flawed any attempt to predict the impact of the plan on a particular family because so many essential details had yet to be determined.
“It is impossible to sit down and say, this will be the impact on this wage earner or this family at this particular time,” Mulvaney said on CNN’s State of the Union on Oct. 1, the same day as Mnuchin’s appearance on ABC’s This Week.
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Inconsistent communication from the White House about how its tax plan would work and who would benefit risks undermining Trump’s campaign to build public support for his signature initiative. It also leaves lawmakers guessing about what the president wants — or at least is willing to accept — as Congress fills in the broad tax framework Trump and GOP leaders released last month.
Even Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, whose panel is responsible for drafting tax legislation, said in an interview Monday that he wasn’t certain of Trump’s red lines — hours after the president shot down in a Twitter post a Republican idea to reduce annual limits on 401(k) retirement account contributions.
“We need to know what the president wants to do to try to coordinate it with him,” he said. “So far I’m not quite sure where he’s going.”
Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said the White House should stay out of the overhaul effort altogether, citing recent interventions by Trump that harmed the negotiations.
“Hopefully the White House will step aside and let that occur in a normal process,” he said Tuesday on NBC.
Trump responded on Twitter. “Bob Corker, who helped President O give us the bad Iran Deal & couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Tennessee, is now fighting Tax Cuts,” Trump said. He alleged Corker, who isn’t seeking re-election, “dropped out of the race in Tennesse when I refused to endorse him” and said he “is only negative on anything Trump.”
House Republicans hope to vote before Thanksgiving on a final plan, which they expect to unveil as soon as next week, said a senior party aide.
By then, contradictory statements from administration officials would threaten to weaken both the White House’s credibility and muddy its argument as Americans form crucial early perceptions.
“The administration has always been clear and consistent on the top priorities for tax reform: giving middle-income Americans a tax cut and bringing the corporate rate down to 20% or lower,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “We hope Democrats who have supported similar proposals in the past will put aside partisanship and support giving the middle class a major tax cut, American workers a pay raise, and our businesses of all sizes a level playing field to compete.”
The White House starts from behind with the public. Americans oppose the Trump tax plan by 52% to 34 percent, according to a CNN poll taken Oct. 12 through Oct. 15. Only 24% believe they would be better off under Trump’s plan, according to the poll.
Vice President Mike Pence (Photo: Pence)
While Trump has repeatedly promised wealthy Americans wouldn’t benefit from the tax overhaul, Vice President Mike Pence has championed the plan as an “across the board” cut for all income levels. The White House branded the plan a “middle-class miracle” just hours before National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said on ABC he couldn’t guarantee taxes won’t go up for some middle-class Americans.
Republicans have vacillated on how to treat state-and-local taxes and whether to add a higher tax bracket for top earners. Administration officials have made several conflicting statements about the effect on the deficit, ranging from predictions of debt-reducing growth to revenue neutrality to active advocacy for more debt.
“It’s a gong show,” said David Stockman, who served as budget director when President Ronald Reagan passed tax cuts in the 1980s. Stockman blamed “naïve cowboys” in the administration with scant Washington experience for the lack of message discipline.
Cut For Wealthy