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US Rep. Richard Neal says he will push Trump administration for tax overhauls that benefit all Americans

April 1, 2017
In The News

With the White House turning its attention to tax system overhauls, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, said he will push President Donald Trump's administration to ensure that any such changes benefit all Americans -- not just those at the top.

Neal, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, remained firm Saturday in his opposition to cuts that disproportionately benefit wealthy Americans, contending the tax system should improve the quality of life for all.

The congressman said he plans to make that argument to Vice President Mike Pence, whom he is tentatively set to meet with on Monday, and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, who is expected to sit down with panel Democrats on Wednesday.

Although the Springfield Democrat said there is widespread support for overhauling the tax system, he argued that varying opinions on what those changes should entail creates challenges.

"We're going to move now toward a discussion on tax reform, which is going to be very, very difficult," he said in an interview. "Everybody agrees on what's wrong with the tax system, that's kind of where the agreement ends. In trying to repair it, that's where there's disagreements."

Neal added that House Republicans' failure to come to consensus on health system changes also does not bode well for success on tax overhauls.

Several members of Massachusetts' congressional delegation claimed victory Friday after House Republicans abruptly canceled a high-profile vote on legislation that sought to dismantle much of the Affordable Care Act.

"One of the interesting parts of the Affordable Care Act (debate) was on Thursday of last week when they had 30 votes on the Republican side against (House Speaker Paul) Ryan's plan. Then they explained it, they had 50 against it. And it's of note that the chairman of the Appropriations Committee - a Republican - when he says he's against it, you know how hard that is it for committee chairman of a majority party to be against what the president of their own party is saying?" he said. "I think that portends what could be difficult going forward on tax reform."

Ryan, however, said he's optimistic about the House's chances to modify the tax system in a recent CBS interview.

"I'm still confident we're going to get tax reform, because we, Republicans, this is in our DNA. Cleaning up the IRS, cleaning up the tax code, making America more competitive, getting jobs and manufacturing restored to America, restoring tax rates to make us more competitive: that's something we all agree on," he said. "We don't have a schism whatsoever in our party on that."

Neal further said he hopes to avoid reverting to tax policies like those seen under former President George W. Bush, which he argued left middle-class Americans with "virtually nothing."

With President-elect Donald Trump set to take office next month and Republicans retaining control on Capitol Hill, Western Massachusetts Democrats are optimistic about finding areas of common ground, but bracing for continued partisan fights.

"I think the most important thing is a tax system that improves the quality of life for all members of the Americans people," he said. "And that reality will play out when you see their proposal on distribution tables: who gets what."

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Thursday that the administration was beginning work on tax policy changes and "weighing the best option to develop a plan that will provide significant middle-class tax relief and make American businesses more competitive."

"The president is committed to delivering results that the American people and American businesses will be able to see and feel in their paychecks," he added.

Trump, throughout his White House run, called for revisions to the individual and corporate tax codes, including: collapsing the current seven individual income tax brackets to three; increasing the standard deduction for joint filers from $12,600 to $30,000; lowering the business tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent; and eliminating the corporate alternative minimum tax.