Top Trump advisor Cohn says tax reform has to get done this year

  • Gary Cohn also says President Trump will push harder to make sure Congress understands the urgency.
  • The administration floated its nine-page tax reform outline last month but it will be up to Congress to hammer out the details.
  • Lawmakers racing to put a bill together with limited time left on the legislative calendar for this year.
Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn speaks during the daily news briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, September 28, 2017 in Washington, DC.
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Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn speaks during the daily news briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, September 28, 2017 in Washington, DC.

Gary Cohn, the top economic advisor to the White House, said Monday that tax reform has to get done this year.

"The opportunity is now," he said in a question and answer session at the annual meeting of the American Bankers Association.

Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, is one of the administration officials working to put forth President Donald Trump's tax reform agenda. He said Trump will push harder to make sure Congress understands the urgency of that message, even if it means legislators have to give up weekends and vacations. "They need to stay and get taxes done."

Last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he would keep members in session through Christmas if they haven't advanced a bill by then.

The administration floated its nine-page tax reform outline last month but it will be up to Congress to hammer out the details. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told CNBC on Friday that tax reform might not get done until next year, though he was confident it would get passed ultimately. He said it will take "at least a couple of months" for GOP lawmakers to smooth out their differences.

The House and the Senate haven't been in session at the same time recently, something that frustrates efforts, Cohn said at the ABA meeting. "Unfortunately we keep losing days" when lawmakers could meet to work on the plan, he said.

Members of the House are out this week and have just 28 voting sessions scheduled for the remainder of the year. The Senate was out last week. Both chambers break for Thanksgiving week and leave Washington after the second full week of December.

Cohn said pushing the reform passage to next year becomes less appealing. "We have a unique window in time," he said. "We're still pushing the agenda."