Speaking to reporters following a lunch earlier this afternoon with President Donald Trump and other Senate Republicans, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans are unified on the issue of tax reform and reiterated his hope that the yet-to-be-released bill will pass the House. Despite McConnell’s consistent assurance that tax reform won’t befall the same fate as the Obamacare repeal effort, there is much doubt that Republicans can unify the broad range of opinions about how to reform the U.S. tax code in a bill that will appeal to enough of the House. If the Republican-held Congress is unable to deliver on tax reform — a campaign promise they’ve been making for years — many fear more resignations by GOP congressmen and a House flip in 2018.
McConnell attempted to dispel these doubts in his comments after leaving the lunch, saying Republicans “intend to achieve what we set out to achieve by the end of the year.” “We’re here to try to accomplish things for the American people, we’re all on the same page” he said, according to CBS News. “If there [is] anything all Republicans think is important to the country and to our party [it] is comprehensive tax reform.”
According to Sen. Bob Corker, who has clashed with President Trump in the past several weeks and as recently as hours before the lunch itself, “tax reform barely came up,” a claim which, if true, would be ironic. President Trump accepted the invitation to attend this week’s lunch — the most recent weekly meeting during which Senate Republicans discuss policy — intending to rally the party “ahead of a months-long push to approve a massive tax reform deal,” according to the Washington Times, unifying them around policy goals shared by him and congressional Republicans.
South Dakota senator John Thune, however, said Trump did discuss tax reform, calling it “what we can do to help ordinary Americans — middle income families — improve their economic standing.” McConnell, too, suggested the president touched on the issue — “he went over all the items the administration has been working on” — in addition to speaking about a forthcoming list of district judges and an announcement on his fight to end the opioid crisis.
Sens. Rand Paul and Tim Scott said the lunch was “great, very upbeat” and “fantastic,” respectively.
It’s good to hear the lunch went well — if anything, it gave Trump an hour without his phone, as Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer joked earlier today — but McConnell’s statements aren’t deeply reassuring. We heard the “Republicans are unified” cry before the failure to pass health-care reform.