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Republicans miss their own deadline on tax plan unveiling

House Republicans promised to unveil their tax plan on Nov. 1. Unfortunately, they can't get their act together.
U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) arrives at a House Republican Conference meeting June 22, 2016 at the Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)
U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) arrives at a House Republican Conference meeting June 22, 2016 at the Capitol in Washington, DC.

Today was supposed to be the day. After months of behind-the-scenes negotiations and behind-closed-doors legislating, House Republicans recently boasted that their tax plan would be unveiled on Wednesday, November 1.

This wouldn't just be an outline or a vague blueprint; GOP leaders assured everyone that this would be actual legislative text, ready for committee scrutiny. Everyone involved in the debate was ready to see what Republicans had finally come up with.

The wait, however, will continue a little longer.

House Republicans will delay releasing their tax bill until Thursday, it was announced Tuesday night.The bill had originally been scheduled to be unveiled Wednesday. But speculation over a delay was rampant on Capitol Hill on Tuesday night, with representatives of House leaders pointing to the Ways and Means Committee for any final decision or announcement.... Republican members privately aired their frustration with a process that they feel cut out of, and some issues were still unresolved hours before the bill had been slated for release.

There was a line in the Politico report on the delay that stood out for me: "At the center of the problem were questions about how to pay for the proposed $5.5 trillion in tax cuts, since any major revenue-generator is certain to antagonize some powerful lobby or group of lawmakers who could defeat it."

As complex as overhauling the federal tax code can be, the source of the Republicans' trouble is quite straightforward: they know they want to cut taxes by trillions of dollars, and after months of work, they still don't know how to pay for any of it.

One of the key pieces of the puzzle is eliminating deductions for state and local taxes in some of the nation's largest states -- including New York and California -- which would generate a considerable amount of revenue. Many Republicans from those states, however, have said they won't go along with a plan that hurts their constituents.

And there are more than enough of those members to derail the bill.

Complicating matters, Donald Trump has publicly promised to protect those deductions, and House GOP leaders appear ready to ignore the president's vow and do the opposite.

As if that weren't enough, Republicans are well aware of the perception -- rooted deeply in reality -- that this entire endeavor is about the GOP's drive to give tax breaks to the very wealthy, and so members are still tinkering in the hopes of avoiding a political backlash, pushing a tax plan that the American mainstream clearly doesn't want.

Despite all of this, Republican leaders continue to insist the House will rush through the tax plan by Thanksgiving -- which is three weeks from tomorrow. Every previous effort at tax reform was the result of a long, deliberative, bipartisan process, but in 2017, the post-policy GOP doesn't see the point of governing this way.

Postscript: After having already missed their own deadline, Republicans now plan to unveil their plan tomorrow. Don't be too surprised if, sometime tonight, they push off this new deadline, too.