The White House says the fight over health care is not over, but on Capitol Hill, Republicans are ready to move on.
“The president isn’t giving up on health care and neither should the Senate,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney declared on CNN on Wednesday.
On the Senate floor that same morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, was already focused elsewhere.
“Comprehensive tax reform represents the single most important action we can take now to grow the economy and help middle-class families get ahead,” McConnell said. He added that the Republican Party has a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to redesign the nation’s tax laws.
McConnell has not publicly declared the Republican effort to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act over, but the mood on Capitol Hill has decidedly shifted to the next legislative battle: cutting taxes.
The same day the health care bill collapsed last week, the “Big Six” negotiators announced a very broad outline of what Republicans hope to achieve with a tax overhaul.
“The goal is a plan that reduces tax rates as much as possible,” read a statement by McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.
The group has been meeting privately for months to sketch out a game plan on tax legislation. Those meetings also ultimately scuttled Ryan’s original hopes of including a controversial new tax on imports that he had hoped would raise new revenue to pay for cuts elsewhere.
Republicans are hopeful that a tax bill will be an easier lift than health care, and lawmakers say the pressure to deliver tax legislation has intensified after failing on long-promised health care legislation.
While the party never really coalesced around an alternative to the Affordable Care Act, every Republican in Congress supports tax cuts.
Some of the broad proposals include reducing the number of personal income tax brackets, and lowering the corporate rate as low as 15 percent — which the president has called for in the past.