WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House is hoping to kick-start its stalled legislative agenda with congressional action on healthcare reform this summer that will clear the way for lawmakers to begin work on a major tax bill after the Sept. 4 Labor Day holiday, an administration official said on Monday.
Senate Republicans will vote on their version of healthcare reform legislation before lawmakers’ August recess, White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short said. The House of Representatives passed a bill in May.
“There’s been a lot of discussions with staff,” Short told reporters at a briefing. “I think the text is pretty far along.”
Congress will then turn its focus to overhauling the tax code in September. While the administration would prefer that the effort not add to the national debt, Short stressed that the top priority would be cutting taxes.
“We want it to be revenue neutral, and we are still supportive of tax reform, but I am also saying to you that what we believe is most important to get the economy going is the tax cuts,” he said.
President Donald Trump will meet with the Republican leaders of the House and the Senate, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, on Tuesday to discuss the path forward for his agenda, said White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters.
Trump has pressed for quicker action in Congress, but his administration has also been hampered by investigations into alleged ties between Trump’s election campaign and Russia.
The Trump administration has outlined a broad plan that would cut tax rates for businesses and streamline the tax system for individuals. But, the proposal has been short on details — including the cost of the tax cuts and what loopholes would be closed.
The healthcare bill passed by the House could result in 23 million people losing insurance, the Congressional Budget Office estimated, a conclusion that Republicans were quick to challenge. The bill would also reduce federal deficits by $119 billion between 2017 and 2026, according to the analysis.
Short said he believed that the Senate healthcare bill would be “similar” to the House package.
Senator John Cornyn, the No.2 Republican in the Senate, said Monday evening he thought there would be a vote on a healthcare bill in the Senate in July.
Short also said the White House expects for Congress to raise the government’s borrowing authority, also known as the debt limit, before the August recess.
Additional reporting Richard Cowan, Susan Cornwell and Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Lisa Shumaker