Judd Gregg: The complex path to tax simplification

Judd Gregg: The complex path to tax simplification
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There is nothing simple about simplifying our tax laws, especially when the goal is to make them fairer, more rational and more oriented toward economic growth.

This fall, as the Congress and the White House try to move tax reform, the intricacies of the path they must navigate could come from a Lewis Carroll story.

The mad hatter dinner party will look coherent, however, when set against the budget, appropriation and tax rules and procedures that will be confronted.

Let’s begin with the budget quandary that must be unraveled before tax reform can formally move through the system.

First, there is the small matter of the debt ceiling.

Everyone knows that the debt ceiling must be raised; that the government cannot be allowed to default on the debt; that the money has been spent; and that the money to pay for the spending must be borrowed.

This is all obvious and undeniable. But, politics does not handle the obvious and the undeniable well.

President Trump said a week or so ago, more or less out of the clear blue, that if he does not get approximately $2 billion in spending for the Mexican border wall, he will countenance not funding our $4 trillion government.

Next the president said, also out of the clear blue, that he would support a three-month extension of the debt limit and a three-month continuing resolution.

This put him in agreement with the Democratic leadership of the Congress and in sharp contrast to the Republican leadership. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had, earlier the same day, said such a short extension would be irresponsible.

One of the reasons Ryan supported a longer timeframe was that the three-month measures the president and the Democratic leadership have settled upon push the issue of a government shutdown to the end of the year.

This is the same period when the Republican leadership of the Congress and the president’s Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, had hoped to debate and pass tax reform.

Ryan clearly wanted to get these distracting shutdown issues off the table so that the Congress could focus specifically on tax reform.

But the president has pulled the rug out from underneath the Speaker.

It is difficult to ascertain why he would do such a thing.

One explanation is that Trump really does want to use the debt ceiling and the continuing resolution as leverage to obtain funding for the Mexican border wall.

By limiting the timeframe, these two issues are pushed off until December. They will no longer be tied up in the need to fund relief in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

The Republican leadership could have used these relief bills as the…


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