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With tax reform on deck, GOP is unprepared for its next big fight

A variety of Republicans seem to believe the first overhaul of the nation's tax code in three decades will be easy. They're likely to be disappointed.
An employee at a money changer counts $100 bills.
An employee at a money changer counts $100 bills.

With the Republicans' health care push having effectively imploded, the White House is already looking ahead, identifying the next mountain to climb. Axios reported yesterday that Donald Trump and his team are working on tax reform and allegedly learning from their recent mistakes.

Activists and business leaders who've been meeting with Gary Cohn, Steven Mnuchin, Marc Short & Paul Teller from legislative affairs, and Sean Spicer (who's leading the comms strategy), all tell us the same thing: They're surprised about how much planning and organizing the White House has already done, given its ham-handed approach to the health care rollout.The administration will start pitching the tax reform effort in mid-August, according to sources involved. They're hoping to get the bill itself finalized for mark-ups after Labor Day (count us as skeptical on that.) But while that happens, expect to see CEOs, White House surrogates, and high-profile conservative activists start talking up the plan.

Let's pause for a moment to note an inconvenient detail: there is no "plan." By all accounts, Republicans are working on one, but an actual proposal is nowhere close to finished.

Indeed, the trajectory of the incomplete plan has already been bizarre. The Trump administration initially told reporters in the spring that the White House's proposal would take months to complete. Trump said the opposite soon after reading a conservative op-ed he liked and telling his aides to adopt it immediately as his own policy.

The result was a one-page outline -- basically a table of contents without the content -- that Trump heralded as his "plan," counting on others to do the heavy lifting on the policy details.

Trump's Treasury Department then said the goal was to have a detailed blueprint ready by the "beginning of September." White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short said soon after that the plan should actually be ready before August. Now it's "after Labor Day."

Remember, we're supposed to believe Trump World is a fine-tuned machine. In fact, the Axios report told readers, "The White House actually seems to have its act together on tax reform."

Meanwhile, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center last week released an analysis of the outline Trump presented in the spring. As Vox explained, the TPC's analysis found that the White House's model would cost $7.8 trillion over 10 years, "and that the benefits would go almost exclusively to the top 5 percent of earners."

A variety of Republicans, including the president, seem to believe the first overhaul of the nation's tax code in three decades will be easy. They're likely to be disappointed.