The odds that congressional Republicans can accomplish their once-in-a-generation goal of rewriting the federal tax code this year are growing longer with every passing, scandal-plagued day of the Trump administration.
But they are determined to show everyone that they’re forging ahead anyway.
That appeared to be the rationale of a much-hyped hearing the House Ways and Means Committee held on Thursday to formally kick off the GOP’s push to pass a major tax bill in the next few months. Party leaders had touted the hearing as evidence Republicans were forging ahead with their agenda in spite of the daily drama emanating from the White House, which has forced members of Congress to spend as much time investigating the president as they are legislating on his agenda. “Sure, drama is not helpful in getting things done,” Speaker Paul Ryan said on Thursday morning. “But we are getting things done!”
Ryan is the former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and tax reform would be his biggest prize. It is most definitely far from being done.
On one hand, the hearing itself was a procedural step beyond what Republicans did as they advanced health-care legislation earlier this year without calling a single expert witness to testify. Yet while lawmakers debated the intricacies of tax policy for nearly four hours on Thursday, the testimony hardly illuminated new arguments on a well-trod issue. Leaders of the committee invited a group of four business executives representing companies large and small—along with one dissenting Democratic investment adviser—to tell Republican lawmakers what they already believed to be true: Comprehensive, permanent tax reform, including a steep reduction in the rate paid by corporations, should be an urgent priority of Congress.