HH: Joined now by the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Kevin Brady, who represents Texas’ 8th Congressional District. Let’s begin, Congressman, welcome, good morning. How are things in the 8th District a week after Harvey?
KB: So Hugh, thanks for having me, so still pretty tough. There’s still, our district, the water has receded, but we’ve got so much damage, and a lot of people in shelters, and so we’re really about how we relieve the folks who are still in crisis and then how we begin to recover. But there are other districts where the water is still six, seven feet deep. And so we’ve got a challenge going forward. I couldn’t, look, this was really a test about Texas and how we respond to this. And it was remarkable recovery, but I have to tell you, you know, but for the help of so many Americans who came down and send us food and supplies and boats and all that, you know, this would be a much different story. So we’re grateful.
HH: We continue to work with Save the Children. I know that people like Team Rubicon are still down there, and the Save the Children button is over at Hughhewitt.com. It just seems to me that with Irma looming, the danger is that we’ll lose focus on what the devastation in Texas is, even as Puerto Rico ends up in the sights.
KB: Yeah, boy, this hurricane Irma really is frightening, just the size and shape of it already. And so yeah, look, we’re just going to have to handle all this. I know the Florida delegation and others, Puerto Rico delegation is already scrambling to make sure they’re prepared correctly for this. But you know, we’re going to handle these, and I’m pleased today the House is going to move on an emergency funding bill just to make sure there’s money in the pipeline for FEMA, for not just for the immediate needs, but also to make sure that pipeline is full for the full year. And then we’ll move to listening to our communities about what they need to rebuild.
HH: Now your colleague, Mike Gallagher, told me it will be a clean bill today, just $7.5 billion dollars…
HH: …and then it will go to the Senate where it might get added into the debt ceiling. What do you expect, Chairman Brady?
KB: Yeah, so it will be clean here. And I think Secretary Mnuchin is making a pretty strong case the cash flow is so tight at the Treasury right now, if we draw down another $8 billion very quickly, which Harvey will, you know, that you’ve accelerated this thing. And so he’s making a pretty strong case there are serious red flags on the default side of this, so let’s act sooner rather than later.
HH: All right, so you would not oppose if the Senate were to add a debt ceiling hike? You would expect it to pass the House?
KB: Well, it’s not my preference. Obviously, I always like budget reforms included in these. But we can move budget reforms separately, and so look, if that’s what it takes to avoid a default and pay our bills on time and in full, then that’s what it takes. I do know Mick Mulvaney at the Budget Office, who’s been a strong conservative and one of our colleagues for many years, says this is a serious matter, so it is.
HH: Now Chairman Brady, I’ve got to talk to you about one of your colleagues on the other side, Representative Gutierrez. Yesterday, I know that emotions run high on DACA, and I am of a believer that there is a compromise to be had here. But General Kelly came under fire from Congressman Gutierrez, and this was Gutierrez’ quite. “General Kelly is a hypocrite who is a disgrace to the uniform he used to wear. He has no honor, and should be drummed out of the White House along with the white supremacists and those enabling the President’s actions by ‘just following orders.’” That’s Gutierrez using the terminology that Nazis used at Nuremberg. General Kelly, of course, not only 40 years in uniform, but he’s a Gold Star father, Lt. Kelly killed in the war. What do you say to your colleagues? Are they losing their minds?
KB: Well, it is, it is hard to believe that lawmakers elected to help lead and unite this country come out with such hateful remarks. And unfortunately, we’ve seen too much of this type of speech. I think it’s one of the reasons we’ve seen violence in this country because of that. And it all stems from this real hatred for this President in this White House. And you’re seeing it in his remarks, and unfortunately, you see it in too many of our Democrat leaders’ remarks. And it divides the country, pulls it apart at a time where I think we need to unite. You’ve got North Korea with a serious threat. We continue to deal with terrorism. We’ve got to rebuild our military. We’ve got disasters here in the United States that need immediate bipartisan attention. And so things like that, remarks like that just have no place in this discussion. I know General Kelly as well, and having honorable men and women step up to help lead this country, we ought to be thanking them for taking on these roles, not just trying to degrade them publicly.
HH: Now I look at terrible things like the Charlottesville march and the Jews will not replace us, and I look at the violence by the Antifa in Berkeley, and then I look at Congressman Gutierrez’ comments, and they just don’t jive with what we see in Houston. They don’t, you know, it’s completely of a different planet.
KB: No, it is. I have to tell you this. I’m so proud of our mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, a very liberal, proud Democrats who’s had a remarkable legislative career. His decisions have been right, his leadership’s been right, and he’s worked closely with the Republican county judge, our chief executive for that region and the governor and the delegation, Congressional delegation for the region. And look, there are no Republicans and Democrats in Texas right now. This is all about helping people, and it continues that way. We’ve got a long recovery, but I’m proud of how everyone’s pulled together. And then Hugh, because I never want to forget this, you know, what our emergency responders did and what the volunteers from around the country did, including my 18 year old son, who when the county judge said look, put out a call, we need private boats to rescue people, he and his buddies grabbed their boats, headed down for three days throughout the region. They worked with people from Kentucky, Missouri, the Cajun Navy, just helping the people get from their homes and apartments to safety. You know, we saw that with the volunteers from all throughout the country, and it really, again, it tells you what’s great about America. It’s not that hateful speech that we see today.
HH: You know, that, every parent would be proud of a son like that, so my hat is off to you.
KB: No, he didn’t even tell me. He didn’t even tell me. My wife had to.
HH: Of course not.
KB: …tell me.
HH: You’re not going to tell your dad you’re going to take the boat and be gone for three days to do rescue stuff.
HH: But tell him thanks for me.
KB: I will.
HH: Of course, you’re not going to tell Dad that until after it’s over. Congressman, Stephanie Ruhle was just on and said you’ve got too much on your plate. Not you, personally, but Congress has to do Harvey, Irma, debt ceiling, tax reform, DACA, you can’t get it done. And I replied, actually, they can. Article I was set up, and we’ve seen Congress do a lot in a hurry. What do you think?
KB: Yeah, I think we can, too. In fact, again, I have not seen, Hugh, anything that gets us off the timetable for tax reform this year. In the meeting we had with the President last, yesterday, was right on target. We’ve got some key decisions and scoring left to do, but we are, we continue on track to deliver tax reform, I mean, bold, transformational tax reform, this year. And we just have to prioritize our needs, getting the economy going and making us more competitive? Frankly, that’s good for Houston and Texas for this recovery, because we’ve got to, one, we’ve got to, we’ve got immediate relief for people, we’ve got to rebuild, but we’ve got to regrow as well if we want to get this region back on its feet. And that’s where tax reform comes in.
HH: Have you come to the nitty gritty? And you know, I always bring up the state and local income tax deduction.
HH: I talked about it at a California event this week, and they will be, you’ll lose every Californian over that. Have the hardest choices been made, yet? Or are they still being debated?
KB: So they’re close. A lot of the work that we’re doing, we’ve narrowed a lot of those key issues. We’ve still got some work to do on all of those, but at the end of the day, we’re going to deliver tax relief for every American and simplify this code in a major way so that it helps people in high tax states and low tax states and everyone in between.
HH: And where will the corporate rate come to rest? And will there be a window period, Chairman Brady, where people can repatriate stranded funds at an even lower rate than the permanent rate?
KB: Yeah, so going forward, we hope to have a permanent tax system where businesses can bring their earnings back to the United States at a zero or a near zero rate permanently. And we expect to have a time period where businesses can bring back the revenue at a low rate that’s already stranded overseas. That’s the answer to your second question. On the first one, as low as we can go. That’s what, look, we’re taking some time, and we continued to work through August. Even though we weren’t in Washington, our teams worked through August, and we worked through August to drive that rate down. So that’s still our biggest challenge is unleashing investment, drive those business rates down, regardless of the size of business. And we’re getting closer. I’m encouraged by the direction.
HH: Now that business rate will, in fact, spur the GDP. We had 3% GDP for the first time, I think, in a decade.
HH: And if you hit that 15% number or lower on the permanent rate, we’ll get 3% GDP. And if you repatriate at 10%, we’ll get enough to pay for it. Are those the sorts of numbers we’re talking about?
KB: Well, look, we’re driving that rate down as low as we can. 15, of course, is always the goal and always has been for the President as well. And we continue. It’s not easy to get to a rate that low, but we are, look, this is an exercise of growth. So you jettison the provisions that don’t get you the growth of jobs and paychecks and competitiveness. And we still have some work to do there, but we’re, again, really encouraged by where we’re at right now.
HH: Last question, Chairman Brady. Do the realtors have to mobilize to save the home mortgage interest deduction?
KB: No. The home mortgage deduction and the charitable deduction stay on the postcard, as well as the child tax credit and the college credit. In fact, we’re redesigning it a bit to help families whose kids are going into technical skills like welding and electrical and plumbing and issues like that. We need those workers, too.
HH: So that’s, the big fight’s going to be over the state and local income tax deduction, then?
KB: You know, at the end of the day, when people see how simple this postcard approach is, and the tax cuts they’re getting, with or without these provisions, I think they’re going to be excited.
HH: All right. We’ll be back to debate that.
KB: Yes, we will.
HH: Chairman Brady, congratulations on having a child who will go to the help of people who need it. That’s really the big news of the day, and I really appreciate you sharing that story with us.
KB: I’m really proud. Thanks.
End of interview.