White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short on the tax cut package:
HH: I am joined by Marc Short, White House director of legislative affairs. Good morning, Marc, thanks for joining me on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
MS: Hugh, thanks so much for having me on. I appreciate it.
HH: I want to talk mostly about tax cuts with you, but first, two sports questions. I spent the last hour hearing from hard core NFL fans, season ticket holders, people like me who are, I own four Cleveland Browns season ticket holders and seat licenses who believe the NFL have fundamentally miscalculated, and many of whom are walking away for good. Do you think the NFL has any idea the thin ice on which they skate?
MS: You know, Hugh, I’m a huge football fan, too, but I think that the NFL has miscalculated the reaction of the American people. I think that there are places that are appropriate for social activism, but I think that the vast majority of the American people expect all of us to respect the flag and the soldiers who have sacrificed so much to protect the freedoms that we enjoy here in this country. So I agree that they’ve miscalculated the reaction of the American people.
HH: Have they reached out? Has the NFL’s commissioner’s office reached out to the White House in any way to discuss how to resolve and move past this without damage to an American pastime that most Americans enjoy, but which is in danger of actually being disintermediated in the way that you know, taxi medallions in New York City went from $2 million dollars in value to $100,000 in the space of a few years?
MS: I’m unaware of that outreach, Hugh, but I confess it’s possible that it’s gone through a different office here at the White House. But I’m unaware of any outreach at this point.
HH: All right, last sports question. San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich, their coach, said yesterday, “our country is an embarrassment to the world.” Now Popovich pops off a lot, maybe because he can’t beat the Warriors. But do you think he actually knows anything about the world and politics? Or is it just another sports figure working their jaws?
MS: You know, look, I think that he’s probably the best coach in the NBA. He’s done a phenomenal job with the San Antonio Spurs, but I think that often sports athletes and coaches go beyond their areas of expertise, and I think that that’s probably another case.
HH: Yeah, it’s just, it’s unfortunate that they get so much attention. Let’s turn to tax cuts.
HH: I believe there’s a framework out there that I have been told by leadership on both Senate and House side is agreed to. Am I correct, Marc Short?
MS: Yes, a framework has been agreed to, and the President will be rolling that out today in a speech in Indiana. I think that the American people will be excited about the size of tax relief that he’s trying to deliver for the American people. And I think one of the reasons for choosing Indiana, obviously, is that we need this to be a bipartisan bill. It’ll be helpful if it is, and we are anxious to get Joe Donnelly’s support for this effort. But additionally, Indiana is the home of Governor Mike Pence, who passed the largest tax relief in the history of the state of Indiana when he was governor. And I think it’s an appropriate place in the middle of America to make our case to the American people as the way to get this economy growing again is to provide tax relief that they need.
HH: Is the President doing a Babe Ruth on this one, pointing to the bleachers, picking his shot, saying it’s going over the wall?
MS: I think the President is really excited to be speaking about tax reform and the need for us to get this economy growing again. I think he believes that for far too long, the corporate rates in America have been outdated, that our tax system provides a competitive disadvantage for American companies, a competitive advantage for foreign companies. It’s why so many companies have fled the shores of America to relocate overseas. And it’s time to bring those jobs back, Hugh, and providing that tax reform and tax relief is the first step in making sure that this economy’s growing, but also that we’re bringing jobs home, which is one of the promises the President made and was central to his campaign.
HH: I get that, and I like the framework. I am even reconciled to the deletion of the state and local income tax deduction, which I think will have some consequences. But it’s got to pass. The Republicans need a win. They lost repeal and replace. Last night, Luther Strange lost. The Republicans are in retreat, aren’t they, Marc? They need a win.
MS: You know, I think that the American people are frustrated, Hugh, and I think rightly so. I think that there’s, the Republicans elected, and I say the American people elected a Republican House in 2010 in an historic election because the Americans were angry about Obamacare. Then in 2014, they turned around and elected Republicans to control the Senate for the first time in years, but it was a historic, I think it was nine seats that flipped in that election. There was a lot of energy for repealing Obamacare. In 2016, it was a large part of the presidential campaign, and a large part of the President’s platform. And so here we finally have our opportunity, and many members who had voted consistently again and again to repeal Obamacare when Obama was president, they have a president who will now sign it into law, and they miss on that opportunity not once, but twice. I think there’s enormous frustration that the American people have, and I think rightly so.
HH: Now Marc Short, that’s four senators, though. That’s Susan Collins and Rand Paul, John McCain and Lisa Murkowski. Is it fair for Mitch McConnell to get blamed for that?
MS: I think you make a good point, and I think that it’s fair to examine you know, the four, I think, that I think the straight talk express drove off the road into a ditch on this. I think if you go back to what John McCain said many times on the campaign with his promise to repeal Obamacare, and I think that you know, he had advertised that if Governor Ducey was comfortable with it, he would be supportive. Well, we had Governor Ducey’s support for this bill. I think with Rand, there was a lot of things that we were excited about. I think having the ability to double health savings account contributions, eliminating individual mandates, eliminating employer mandates, providing perhaps the biggest entitlement reform in a generation, and also protections of life, this bill protected, it stopped the taxpayer funding of abortions, and provided the flow of the bloc grants through programs that were protected under the Hyde Amendment. So this was a real opportunity for him to stick with his convictions on life, and yet I think that he was one of the central people that took down the opportunity to repeal Obamacare.
HH: I think, and I said this on Meet the Press last night, when they examine the corpse of repeal and replace, the DNA they find will be of the Freedom Caucus and those four senators, and that’s it. But it’s not McConnell. Nevertheless, Luther Strange lost last night, despite the Senate Majority Leader’s support, the President’s support, mainstream Republican support. How do you explain that?
MS: Well, I would take issue, I think, on one area, and that is that the Freedom Caucus was actually supportive of the bill. They helped us get it across the finish line in the House. I do think that if you go back and do the autopsy, that where all of us, I think, fell short was that we didn’t do enough advertising to our conservative allies and friends ahead of the rollout. And that rollout started in the very first couple of days of January before this administration had even been inaugurated. But I think too quickly, it had been tagged as Obamacare lite, and it took us a while to go talk to a lot of those conservative allies and explain to them the benefits of the first repeal bill before they came around to be supportive. But to your question, you know, I think that yes, I think last night is a reflection of a lot of people’s frustration about lack of progress on things that I think the President tapped into that frustration last year, particularly on promises to drain the swamp. And I think there’s a sense that some of that progress is stalled right now in the Senate.
HH: Now the pivot to tax cuts is huge. I have been urging people to go to www.taxcutsnow.com and register their individual support. But you mentioned the groups. We have the Heritage Foundation, we have got the Club For Growth, we have Freedom Works. Are the groups on board with the framework?
MS: Yes. We have spent several months meeting with those groups and talking to them, getting their input, getting their advice, and I think that that is something that’s very different with this, with this effort, as opposed to where we were on the Obamacare repeal effort. And so yes, the groups that you mentioned – Heritage, Club For Growth, Freedom Works, Americans For Prosperity, are all anxious to see us deliver on tax reform, and are very engaged, and are actually helping us with rallies across the country, town halls for their activists, to make the case as to why this is important.
HH: Is the state and local income tax, state and local tax deduction dead, dead, dead, Marc Short?
MS: Well, I think that the President will be laying out more of those specifics this afternoon. I don’t want to get too far ahead of him, Hugh. But I think the one thing broadly the President wants to do is he wants to simplify the tax code. There’s simply too many deductions in the code today that special interests have protected. And I think you’re going to see him make a case that it’s time to get rid of so many of these special interest deductions that high paid lobbyists have put into the tax code that the average American doesn’t have access to. But certain industries, certain individuals do, because they’ve worked the system. He wants a flatter, he wants a cleaner tax code, and we want to get rid of so many of these deductions, and reduce the number of individual rates from seven down to three.
HH: That sounds like a yes to me. It sounds like the state and local income tax deduction is dead, dead, dead. And that’s okay. I can, I think it’s bad politics, but you folks know better than I do.
MS: I think there’s a fair argument as to why people across the country should be in essence subsidizing those in high tax states who take advantage of those deductions.
HH: Well, look, I moved from California for that reason. I live in Virginia now for that reason. So it’s not my, it’s not my ox that’s being gored. I worry about the economy. Let me ask you, the House needs to move in October. The Senate needs to move in November if the President’s going to sign this in December. Is that realistic?
MS: I think it’s an aggressive timetable, Hugh. It is what House leadership, Senate leadership and the White House have agreed to as far as the timetable. I think that you will see, of course, we need to get a budget passed first, because tax reform will be riding on budget reconciliation, so I think in October, you’ll see more focus on getting the budget passed in the House and the Senate. You’ll probably see the House, if all goes well, in early November, and the Senate in late November, and hopefully completing it before the end of the year.
HH: All right, Marc Short, you can’t come on my show without talking about judges. You know that. Has President Trump talked to Chuck Grassley, say, about Justice David Stras of Minnesota, who is supremely qualified to join the 8th Circuit, has been nominated, but is being blocked by the archaic, anti-Constitutional blue slip process employed by Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar? Has the President called Chuck Grassley and said get this man a hearing?
MS: We have had those conversations with both the Judiciary Committee and with leadership. I think that the pace of confirmations has been incredibly slow. And I think that it’s something that the American people, you know, should be more aware of. It’s not as, it’s not a topic that usually jumps to the front of the headlines, but the judicial nomination pace has been slow, but also the confirmation of a lot of our nominees. To date, we have forwarded 62 judicial nominations, only 9 have been confirmed. So it has been a process that has been delayed. I think Democrats have obstructed at every opportunity they can, and you’re right. The judge in Minnesota merits a confirmation.
HH: Now there are 20 Circuit Court vacancies, three of them on the 5th Circuit. One of those could go to Justice Willett, who is America’s favorite Twitter judge. What is the deal with the 5th Circuit?
MS: Well, I think that, I can’t get into details on process on that one right now, Hugh, but again, I think across the board, it’s not just the 5th Circuit. It’s a lot of judges that fortunately, this President has the ability…one of the great, when you look back several years from now, I think one of the things you will be able to comment on is the way that Donald Trump reshaped the courts. And that’s an enormous opportunity for us with over 140 federal judicial vacancies. It’s an incredibly important issue, as you mentioned. But I think the Democrats recognize that as well, which is why they’re looking to obstruct every chance they get on us filling these judicial vacancies.
HH: Which is why the blue slip for at least Circuit appointments have to go. Let me close by reframing again. Is the President going Babe Ruth on this? Is he going to say I’m going to get the tax cuts past, there’s the fence, the ball is going over it?
MS: I think that the President has already said this will be the largest tax cut in American history. He is anxious to take his swing at the plate, and yes, he’s anxious to deliver for the American people.
HH: Marc Short, great to have you. Thank for you joining me. Come back early and often during this fight. And Americans, go to www.taxcutsnow.com to get your voice added to those of millions of people who want this done. Thank you, Marc.
MS: Thank you, Hugh. I appreciate it.
End of interview.