Hill GOP leaders eye new tax cuts if they can sweep in November

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Speaker Mike Johnson told Senate Republicans on Wednesday that he wants to go big in a possible GOP-run Washington next year. So far, a fresh round of tax cuts is at the top of his wish list.

Exiting a meeting with the Senate GOP, Johnson said tax cuts and “regulatory reform,” shorthand for paring back government regulations, are two of his biggest priorities if his party can take unified control of Washington next year.

As for redesigning the rest of the Republican agenda, Johnson told reporters that the party is looking “creatively, and I think deliberatively” at what it can accomplish. But inside the room, GOP senators said the speaker offered scant details so far about his plans.

“It was: ‘We are working on this.’ I don’t know who the ‘we’ is, I have no idea,” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), describing the meeting with Johnson as a “very broad” discussion. He said the speaker was in the room for less than 30 minutes — and spoke to a relatively small crowd of senators.

With dreams of controlling the White House and Congress for the first time in six years, GOP leaders are eager to plot an agenda for the campaign trail. If Republicans can achieve the rare trifecta in November, Johnson and the next Senate GOP leader will be eager to use the power known as budget reconciliation to circumvent the filibuster.

As Democrats did at the beginning of the Biden administration, Republicans will likely encounter a huge battle over which priorities to include — and what will be left on the cutting room floor.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) described Wednesday’s meeting as an adjustment of “expectations” for the use of budget reconciliation to circumvent the filibuster, a path that comes with narrow restraints on the topics lawmakers can tackle.

“We want to overcome frustrations,” Tillis said, pointing to Democrats’ failed attempts to add immigration policy to their own party-line legislation two years ago. Some Republicans are already gunning to include border reforms in their hypothetical future reconciliation measure — something that would likely stir another big procedural fight.

As for the GOP’s political prognosis, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said Johnson has a “real optimism” for November: “He just feels like the atmosphere is very positive.”

Across the Capitol, House GOP leaders have begun drafting their own wish list. Majority Leader Steve Scalise asked GOP committee chairs last month to compile their biggest policy demands for a Republican sweep.

It’s no secret that Republicans will be focusing on taxes, with much of the individual tax cuts in the Trump-era 2017 tax law expiring in the coming months.

“Tax cuts need to be extended. Otherwise, we’re going to have the biggest tax hikes in US history,” Johnson said.

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