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Treasury's Mnuchin on tax reform: 'Our objective is to get it done this year'

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he hopes a tax overhaul will pass this year.
  • He again backs off the August timeline he originally set.
  • Expectations for the GOP quickly passing its agenda have recently fallen off.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday the Trump administration hopes to pass a plan to overhaul the U.S. tax system by the end of the year.

"Our objective is to get that done this year, and I'm still hopeful that that's the case," he said at the Peterson Foundation Fiscal Summit.

Mnuchin stated clearly that "we're not going to get that done by August," again backing away from the original timeline the White House set for tax reform.

Tax cuts — a central Republican priority — fueled investor optimism after President Donald Trump 's election in November and underpin the optimistic economic growth expectations held by the White House. Amid the GOP's struggle to pass its plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, a coming appropriations process in Congress, and investigations into the Trump campaign, hopes for Republicans quickly passing their agenda have recently stalled.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently said he hoped to get tax reform passed in the current Congress, hinting he may not be hopeful about it passing this year.

The Trump administration has released only a one-page summary of its tax proposal, which largely overlapped with the plan the president outlined as a candidate. Mnuchin said Tuesday the White House is still working with Congress on the details of a "unified plan that the House and Senate will support."

After Trump's election, Mnuchin told CNBC that wealthy Americans would get no "absolute tax cut." That would mean any cuts they did get under Trump's plan — including a big drop in the top income tax rate — would be offset by closing loopholes the wealthy use.

On Tuesday, Mnuchin hedged on that claim. He said delivering a "middle-income tax cut" is the White House's "intent," but added he "can't say what the results will be" because of Congress.

The Treasury secretary stuck to the administration's goal of 3 percent sustained economic growth but said it likely would not happen this year and would take place over time. Gross domestic product only grew 1.6 percent in 2016.