Paul Ryan insists tax reform will be different from Obamacare repeal debacle

Key Points
  • Paul Ryan expresses optimism that Republicans will get on the same page on tax reform after the latest GOP plan to repeal Obamacare crumbled.
  • Republican leaders are looking to start working a plan through Congress in the fall.
  • Passing tax reform is still an extremely difficult task.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., leaves a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the Capitol on July 28, 2017.
Tom Williams | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

House Speaker Paul Ryan on Friday struck an optimistic tone on Republicans' ability to reach a tax reform deal, just hours after the latest GOP attempt to repeal Obamacare crumbled, for now, amid party divisions.

In a Fox Business interview, Ryan expressed a sentiment that many in the GOP have shared in recent weeks: tax reform is the top priority for the party, and the White House and top lawmakers have taken more strides to reach a consensus at the start than they did during the health-care process.

"I feel much more confident that we're going to stick the landing on tax reform because we have now said we have consensus, here's the framework, let's go get it done," Ryan said. "... We as Republicans, especially now, agree on how to do it. Health care is a good example. There's not a complete consensus on how best to do health-care reform. On tax reform, we have that consensus."

Ryan's comments came a day after the Republican leaders working on tax reform released a joint statement saying they will abandon the controversial border adjustment provision and outlining the broad goals for tax reform. The key congressional and White House officials said they wanted the bill to start moving through relevant committees "this fall."

Passing a tax reform plan will still be a difficult task for Republicans, despite a strong ideological underpinning and powerful GOP forces putting their weight behind the effort. The last comprehensive tax reform took place in 1986, and various business and local interests will complicate the goals for Republican lawmakers in the areas they represent.

Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch have been meeting regularly to strike a plan that the GOP wants to push through Congress this year. Republicans in Congress have generally seen more policy engagement from the White House on taxes than they did in the health-care fight.

"It is more important for us than anything that we get tax reform done because we think it's absolutely critical for strong economic growth," Ryan said Friday.

But many unknowns remain. The joint statement released Thursday by the six leaders did not offer new details on possible corporate or income tax rates, revenue neutrality or other specifics that could be included in the tax plan.

The border adjustment proposal was a key revenue-raising plank of the plan House Republicans unveiled last year, but it faced resistance from the retail industry and an uncertain future in the Senate. It taxes imports but lets exports go untaxed.

Ryan, a champion of border adjustment, said he was comfortable dropping the provision if it means reaching a party consensus more quickly.

Still, removing the measure adds more questions, among them: how do Republicans pay for their desired cuts for business and individual tax rates without another revenue-raising tool? Ryan said he wants to see if a "viable alternative" exists to border adjustment.