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House Republican tax chief to huddle with Democrats

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Texas Republican spearheading tax reform efforts in the U.S. House of Representatives will meet with Democrats to discuss policy ideas, as Republicans try to secure a victory for President Donald Trump after his healthcare bill’s failure.

FILE PHOTO: House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) speaks with the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady said the meeting with his panel’s 16 Democratic members will focus on ways to simplify the U.S. tax code for individuals and stop U.S. companies from moving production and research facilities overseas - both key House Republican tax reform objectives.

“At the end of the day, I don’t want to make a prediction as to where that goes. But I think this engagement’s important,” Brady told reporters on Monday. “I’d love to have them bring their ideas on how we leapfrog America back into the lead as the most competitive place on earth for that new business.”

The meeting is expected to take place on Wednesday, according to House aides.

A spokesman for Ways and Means Democrats had no immediate comment.

Brady said the meeting has nothing to do with the healthcare debacle on March 24, when the Republican-controlled House pulled legislation to repeal and replace the healthcare law known as Obamacare when it became clear that Republicans would fall short of the votes needed. Trump blamed the failure on hardline Republican conservatives who opposed the bill and threatened to reach out to Democrats.

But the Trump administration has signaled an interest in finding bipartisan support for tax reform legislation, billed as the first comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. tax code since 1986.

The White House has also shown signs of moving away from the House tax reform blueprint backed by Brady and House Speaker Paul Ryan, informing Republican lawmakers on March 16 that all options were on the table.

The House blueprint, which Democrats oppose, calls for sweeping changes and tax cuts that would mainly benefit the wealthy. But it has divided the business community and Republicans over a border adjustment tax provision that would impose a 20 percent tax on imports while exempting export revenues from tax.

White House officials told lawmakers last month that they were seriously considering other options, including deficit-funded tax cuts and a European-style value-added tax for businesses.

Brady expects to unveil tax reform legislation this spring, with a full House vote as early as the summer.

Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Leslie Adler