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What The White House Wants In Tax Overhaul


Republicans are running up against two deadlines. The first is Friday. That's when the federal government could shut down unless a continuing resolution is passed. The second is Christmas. That's the date the GOP has been touting as the deadline to pass a tax overhaul bill. And the White House is working to encourage congressional Republicans to meet both of those deadlines. We're going to get some perspective now from Marc Short. He is the White House director of legislative affairs and deputy assistant to the president.

Mr. Short, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

MARC SHORT: Rachel, thanks for having me on this morning.

MARTIN: Is the White House preparing for a shutdown?

SHORT: Rachel, we are preparing to make sure the government gets funded. Nobody's looking for a shutdown. And just on your intro, you know, it's not just something that Republicans need to do. It's what all of Congress needs to do. In order to get the government funded, it's a deal that would require both Democrat and Republican support, and we believe that the tax plan is also beneficial for all Americans, not just Republicans.

MARTIN: Although the president, when asked about the possibility of a shutdown on Wednesday, said it could happen, and then he pointed the finger at Democrats. I want to play a bit of a clip from his statement.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They want to have illegal immigrants - in many cases, people that we don't want in our country - they want illegal immigrants pouring into our country, bringing with them crime - tremendous amounts of crime. We don't want to have that.

MARTIN: I wonder if you could parse what he's saying there when he says illegal immigrants pouring into the country because the issue the Democrats are pushing right now in this debate is about DACA - protections for so-called DREAMers who are already in this country.

SHORT: Right. So there're two separate issues here, Rachel. And one is that we need to make sure that the government stays funded. What Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have both said in the past is that they've said Republicans were wrong to try to attach policy riders to government funding. That is exactly what they are looking to do right now. They are looking to have a DACA solution as part of the government funding bill. The president has said he wants to solve the DACA situation as well. As you know, the deadline for that is March 5. He is very eager to get a bill from Congress.

He, in fact, has put forward to Congress the principles he would like to see as part of immigration reform and what would be part of a DACA deal, but we have yet to receive a proposal from Congress. So right now, we feel it's wrong for them to try to hold hostage the government funding bill when we have so many priorities in this country, particularly those of the national security element, particularly when we need to fund our military and our troops. We should not be having that debate tied to funding the government. We are...

MARTIN: Does that mean the president won't engage on conversations about DACA right now?

SHORT: No. We are happy to engage in those conversations. We just don't believe it should be tied to the government funding bill. The president has put forward - he initiated this conversation and said, I want this solved. As long as a - basically, almost a year ago - is at that time, Secretary John Kelly went to Congress and said, this is a problem that needs congressional solution, and we are anxious to have solutions provided by Congress. And then, as you know, later this fall, the president said he can no longer defend the DACA program but gave six months for Congress to have a solution. We have yet to receive something from them.

MARTIN: I want to turn to the tax bill. Both the House and Senate bills would lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. Democrats have argued that is too low. Over the weekend, President Trump indicated he'd be open to setting the rate to 22 as some kind of compromise. What have you heard from congressional Republicans about that?

SHORT: Rachel, we're anxious to keep the corporate rate at 20 percent. We believe that where we are on the - across the globe that the industrialized nations have an average of about 22 1/2 percent, but they're trending lower. Great Britain is now down to the teens. Ireland is at 12 percent and potentially going to single digits. One of the reasons so many jobs have left our country is because the corporate tax rates are so much lower across the globe. And so we need to make sure we're competitive. We're anxious to have it at 20 percent.

MARTIN: Republican moderates have placed conditions on their support of the plan - Senator Susan Collins, in particular. She was on "Meet The Press" over the weekend. She said she was assured of a compromise on health policy including Obamacare. Let's listen.


SUSAN COLLINS: I got a commitment that we're going to pass two bills that will help, I've said, the individual mandate repeal by lowering premiums. And I also got an ironclad commitment that we're not going to see cuts in the Medicaid, Medicare program as a result of this bill.

MARTIN: Did she get an ironclad commitment from the White House? Did the White House make that promise, and will you honor it?

SHORT: Well, keep in mind that some of these ironclad commitments are actually from Congress. So well, she's talking about commitments she received from Leader McConnell and promises as to when the legislation would come forward. But let's keep in mind that the individual mandate most impacts those families that are middle-and-low-income families. Those that are choosing not to get insurance on the Obamacare insurance exchanges - 80 percent of them are families earning $50,000 or less.

MARTIN: But the...

SHORT: So we think it's right policy, but yes, we've also talked to Susan Collins about some policies, that she asked for White House support in exchange for her vote, and we've promised to deliver that.

MARTIN: Does that mean the White House will not support any future effort to cut Medicaid or Medicare?

SHORT: That means that as far as pay-go, as far as this bill, we've agreed that the pay-go should be waived for this.

MARTIN: So that means you're leaving the door open for future cuts to those entitlement programs.

SHORT: I'm not going to have a hypothetical debate now about what we may or may not do in future years on these programs.

MARTIN: Marc Short is the White House director of legislative affairs, deputy assistant to the president. Thanks so much for your time this morning.

SHORT: Thanks a million, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.