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Republicans are writing tax reform behind closed doors, too

It's deja vu all over again: GOP leaders are writing a tax-reform plan in secret, just like they did with health care.
Clouds fill the sky in front of the U.S. Capitol on October 7, 2013 in Washington, DC.
Clouds fill the sky in front of the U.S. Capitol on October 7, 2013 in Washington, DC.

The Fox affiliate in Milwaukee yesterday ran a report over the weekend criticizing union ironworker Randy Bryce, House Speaker Paul Ryan's likely Democratic opponent next year, for not knowing much of anything about the Republican tax plan.

"I would have to look to see how those brackets are made up," Bryce told the station. "To be honest, I've been really busy campaigning."

And while I'm all for candidates having detailed understandings of major issues, it's pretty easy in this case to cut the Wisconsin Democrat some slack -- because the GOP tax plan he's unfamiliar with doesn't yet exist.

Politico reported this morning that many congressional Republicans returned from their summer break "ready and eager to work on tax reform," only to discover their party still doesn't have a plan. The piece added that members are feeling anxious since they've "seen no details and worry they'll be backed into a corner on legislation they haven't even seen, much like they were with the failed Obamacare repeal earlier this summer."

That analogy appears to be on everyone's mind. GOP leaders knew they wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but when it came time to actually write a bill, a small group of Republicans clustered behind closed doors to craft a dreadful and unpopular proposal that ultimately failed in the face of intra-party divisions.

Learning little from the experience, GOP leaders again set out to write a tax plan in secret, and as Roll Call reported late last week, it's not going especially well.

The closed-door process under which Republican congressional leaders and the Trump administration are crafting an overhaul of the United States tax code could impede the Senate's timeline for the effort.Lawmakers say they have yet to receive key details, making it difficult to craft a fiscal 2018 budget resolution that will ultimately serve as the vehicle to advance the tax bill.

Asked when he expected to hear about the details of his party's plan, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told Roll Call, "Damned if I know."

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) added, "It's hard to prepare without details."

The White House, meanwhile, which is using hurricanes to call for an expedited process, is trying to learn from the health care example by dispatching Donald Trump to public events in the hopes of rallying public support for the plan.

That's not a bad idea, of course, though it'd certainly make more sense if, you know, there was an actual plan.