US Rep. Richard Neal says focus on Trump-Russia investigation could hinder tax overhaul, other measures in Congress
Although the White House and congressional leaders have pledged to overhaul the tax system, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal recently raised concerns that continued focus on President Donald Trump's alleged ties to Russian meddling in the 2016 election could put that and other legislative priorities on the back burner.
The Springfield Democrat, who serves as the ranking member of powerful House Ways and Means Committee, said while he's hopeful lawmakers can modify the tax system to better benefit middle class Americans, achieving any real changes could be hard -- particularly given Congress' attention on things like Russia and dismantling the Affordable Care Act.
"We have a series of regular formulaic issues that come up every year, including 12 spending bills, then you have all kinds of obligations for renewal and rejection, but one of the things that happens, I think, on major issues, is it takes a long time," he said during a recent stop in Pittsfield.
"I think that the attention span of Congress as it relates to beyond two big issues at one time is very difficult because there are a series of other competing issues that you have to address."
Neal, however, said he thinks there's room for Congress to address issues in the tax system regarding transitional rules, deductions, preferences and international corporate taxes.
But those changes, he offered "might not be the revolution that we'd all anticipated."
Neal pointed to lawmakers' recent focus on reports that surfaced in the wake of Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey as an example of Congress' divided attention.
The New York Times says Trump made the request to Comey during a February meeting.
"It's going to be hard to concentrate on some of these other issues until there's some direction from, I hope, neutral and impartial investigation," he said, adding that a Justice Department official with an impeccable reputation could lead that charge.
The congressman, however, acknowledged that such a scenario is currently unlikely.
"Right now, you have the Senate and the House converging on an investigation into Russia's involvement. I think the bigger issue here is that it is now clear that Russia is trying to impede the results in representative democracies ... We need to get to the bottom of what they've done and just how carefully orchestrated the Russian effort has been," he said.
Trump's tax overhaul plan, which White House officials unveiled in late April, proposed reducing the current seven individual tax brackets to just three, a 10 percent bracket, 25 percent bracket and 35 percent bracket; doubling the standard deduction so a married couple does not pay taxes on the first $24,000 of earned income; and returning the top capital gains tax rate and dividend rate to 20 percent.
The president's proposal also called for repealing the alternative minimum tax, ending the so-called "death tax" and eliminating many tax breaks that benefit high-income individuals, officials said.
Trump's tax plan would further lower the business rate to 15 percent, make it a territorial system and utilize a one-time tax on overseas profits to bring back dollars to the United States.
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, slammed President Donald Trump's tax overhaul plan Thursday, contending that the proposal would disproportionately favor the wealthy and mark a return to Bush-era policies that contributed to the economic recession.
Neal, who panned the president's proposal for lacking what he called "real detail," said he'd like to see more specifics regarding Trump's plan. The congressman further argued that he'd like to see the president's proposal follow through on his campaign trail promise to provide a middle class tax cut.
"I'm also hopeful that we will align changes in the individual side of the tax code, if we're going to address changes in the corporate side of the tax code," he added. "And I hope that we're not going to ask middle-class people to pay for a corporate tax cut."