Trump has a much better shot with tax reform than health care, ex-legislators from both parties say

Key Points
  • The Trump administration unveiled a new tax reform plan on Wednesday.
  • Former U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La. says a large tax-reform bill will likely pass because the tax system is outdated and Republicans need a legislative win.
  • Former Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., says political partisanship and hyperbole could prevent a substantive tax bill from being passed.
Max Baucus: This is just a framework, we have no idea what the tax legislation might be
Max Baucus: This is just a framework, we have no idea what the tax legislation might be

While the latest in a series of legislative efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act was derailed on Tuesday, the Trump administration's new focus on enacting tax reform is better positioned for success, politicians from both major parties said Wednesday.

What that bill will end up containing, however, is still highly speculative, even after the administration unveiled a new plan providing fresh clues about Republicans' tax-cut goals.

"I think it's a high percentage that Congress will pass a bill and the president will sign it," said former Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La., on CNBC's "Power Lunch" Wednesday. Still, McCrery said that "what form it ultimately takes, and whether it could be truly called an overarching tax reform bill, remains to be seen."

McCrery said both practical and political reasons lead him to believe a large tax bill will survive the hitherto punishing legislative process and get signed into law.

First, the U.S. tax system, particularly for businesses, has grown anachronistic and less competitive against the rest of the world, McCrery said. While tax rates were adjusted within the past decade, the last major tax overhaul came in 2001 during the start of President George W. Bush's first term.

"And number two, the political imperative for Republicans," McCrery said. "That speaks for itself."

President Donald Trump boards Air Force One for travel to Indiana from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, September 27, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Former Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana agreed with McCrery that, in some shape or form, a tax bill will probably make it into law.

"I think there will be a tax bill passed," Baucus said on "Power Lunch," but "it may be very modest, it will be a tax cut, it will probably not be major reform."

Baucus said the unbridgeable partisan divide in Washington will make it nearly impossible to get a substantive bill through Congress.

"I hope, frankly, that both parties have learned a lesson from the failure of health-care reform, that is: work together," he said. "You've got to forget the rhetoric. You've got to work together."

Baucus cited the tax reform measures taken under President Ronald Reagan in 1986 as being a bipartisan effort. Indeed, Bush's tax reform bill in 2001 received yea votes from Republicans and Democrats alike.

McCrery, more optimistic about the chances of passage, expressed confidence in President Donald Trump's political abilities.

"I think the president realizes that there's a long process ahead of the Congress in developing this bill and getting it passed," McCrery said.

"He's a good negotiator. I suspect he's willing to listen and to work with members of Congress to get a final bill."

WATCH: Trump promises once-in-a-lifetime tax reform

President Trump just promised a once-in-a-generation deal to reform taxes
President Trump just promised a once-in-a-generation deal to reform taxes