Trump's top economic advisor Cohn: Tax reform bill is one 'that the president can support'

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.
Getty Images

Top White House economic advisor Gary Cohn praised the tax reform bill released Thursday and said President Donald Trump likely will support the measure so long as it preserves key elements.

Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive who is now director of the National Economic Council, made the remarks during a discussion of the tax bill with David Rubenstein, the founder and co-CEO of the private equity firm Carlyle Group.

Cohn said Trump can support the bill as presented, and he hopes to see something approved before the end of the year.

The bill set out to accomplish two objectives and it did both, he added.

"We had to deliver a middle-income tax cut. Number two, we had to lower the business tax rate to make us competitive with the rest of the world," he said. "The bill that the House delivered today accomplished both of those objectives."

The bill cuts the number of tax brackets to four and lowers the corporate tax rate to 20 percent. In addition, it raises the child tax credit and preserves retirement programs like the 401(k) and Individual Retirement Accounts.

Tax reform has been a cornerstone of the Trump economic program, along with a rollback in regulations and increased infrastructure spending.

"The bill that the House Ways and Means Committee delivered today is a bill that the president can support," Cohn said.

"If it delivers middle-class tax relief and a 20 percent corporate tax rate and it shows up his desk, I can guarantee that he's going to sign it," he added.

Other provisions include a doubling of the estate tax exemption and a full repeal in six years. The alternative minimum tax also is expected to go. The House and Senate both have passed versions of a budget that helped pave the way for the tax agreement.

Critics have said the tax plan's benefits skew toward the wealthy and will increase the budget deficit. The total value of the cuts has been put at $1.5 trillion.

But the White House has countered that tax relief will spur enough growth to offset the lost revenue.

"We believe that just by lowering the business tax in the United States and becoming much more competitive in the rest of the world ... we are going to grow our economy at a faster rate than the model is going to suggest," Cohn said. "We also believe that by lowering the tax rate on the middle America's hard-working families they are going to spend more money, velocity is going to increase and the economy is going to grow."