Donald Trump's top economic aides have recently walked back expectations for how quickly tax reform will happen, but on Tuesday, the president put the pressure back on.
"So we're in very good shape on tax reform. We have the concept of the plan. We're going to be announcing it very soon," Trump said at Snap-on headquarters in Wisconsin. "But health care, we have to get the health care taken care of, and as soon as health care takes care of we are going to march very quickly. You're going to watch. We're going to surprise you. Right, (Treasury Secretary) Steve Mnuchin? Right?"
Mnuchin — who initially set an August goal for passing a tax reform bill — told the Financial Times in an interview published Monday that that timeline is "highly aggressive to not realistic at this point."
Chief economic advisor Gary Cohn also recently said he did not know if tax reform, a key policy hope for the investing community, could happen by August.
Even though the president sounded optimistic Tuesday, the Trump administration has set deadlines for tax policy before that have not come to pass. In late February, Trump said the tax plan was "very well finalized," only a day after press secretary Sean Spicer said it would be released "in the next couple weeks.
When Trump took office in January, Republicans aimed to replace the Affordable Care Act before moving to tax reform, partly because changing health-care-linked taxes would give them more flexibility when crafting a tax plan. When the GOP health-care bill failed in dramatic fashion late last month, Republicans immediately shifted their focus to tax policy.
Trump has not yet achieved major legislative victories on his top campaign goals beyond the Senate confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Some Americans have lost their confidence in Trump to keep his campaign promises after the setbacks, according to a Gallup poll released this week.
The president signaled Tuesday that he wants to turn back to health-care policy again before working toward tax reform. The first Obamacare replacement effort of the Trump era failed as Republicans struggled to balance concerns of conservative and moderate members while facing unified opposition from Democrats.
House Republicans started negotiating on a health-care plan again before they left for their Easter recess. The House comes back in session next week.
The GOP will also have to overcome competing interests from its various members and the business community as it tries to pass a tax system overhaul.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said last month that he thinks "finishing tax reform will take longer" than August.