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Trump finding new ways to bungle the tax-reform fight

What do health care reform, tax reform, and infrastructure have in common? Team Trump promised to unveil a detailed plan -- and then failed.
Image: U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks on the protests in Charlottesville Virginia from his golf estate in Bedminster New Jersey
U.S. President Donald Trump reads from a prepared statement as he delivers remarks on the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, from his golf estate in...

Not long after taking office, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin assured Americans that tax reform would pass by August. That obviously didn't happen. Later, White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short said the administration's tax plan wouldn't pass by August, but before September, the blueprint would be "locked in place." That obviously didn't happen, either.

The White House's plan then changed a bit more: Donald Trump would spend August selling the public on the virtues of his tax reform plan, before unveiling the "full blown" presidential blueprint after Labor Day. We can add this to the list of things that were supposed to happen but didn't.

The punch-line, however, was delivered yesterday. Bloomberg Politics reported that the plan Team Trump vowed to unveil does not and will not exist.

Republican congressional leaders don't expect to release a joint tax plan with the White House next month, and they'll rely instead on House and Senate tax-writing committees to solve the big tax questions that remain unanswered, according to two people familiar with the matter.

A CNBC reporter confirmed with a White House official that the Trump administration, despite its previous vows, will not release a tax proposal of its own, leaving it to congressional Republicans to work out the details.

If this pattern sounds vaguely familiar, it's because this isn't the first time the president and his team promised to unveil a detailed policy proposal on a key priority, only to fail miserably.

For example, Trump said earlier this year that his health care plan was nearly ready for its unveiling. Soon after, the White House conceded it had no plan and left it to Congress to come up with various alternatives -- each of which, at least so far, have failed.

Trump also vowed to unveil an infrastructure plan by May. August is nearly over, and as you may have noticed, the White House's proposal still doesn't exist. (The president did unveil one idea related to infrastructure -- privatizing air-traffic controllers -- and it was promptly rejected by lawmakers from his own party.)

In other words, Trump World identified three leading domestic priorities -- health care reform, tax reform, and an infrastructure overhaul -- and promised to craft detailed plans on each, only to discover governing is vastly more difficult than the amateur president and his aides realized.

Postscript: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said this week that a tax-reform bill is "the president's highest focus." I'm not sure how anyone could take such a claim seriously. Over the last month, Trump has mentioned the issue via Twitter just twice. In contrast, he's tweeted complaints about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) six times over the same period.