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What Hill Republicans think of Trump’s tax plan: ‘Not even close’ to reform

Trump’s approach is seen as a direct affront to Paul Ryan and Ways and Means Chair Kevin Brady
House Speaker Paul Ryan

(CNN) — Despite a positive public front, congressional Republicans are quietly voicing frustration that President Donald Trump’s big tax announcement Wednesday contains all cuts and no real reform, lacking the crucial components of a way to pay for the plan as well as sufficient congressional involvement.

Administration officials say the White House wanted to take the lead on this — rather than wait for the Hill — to get headlines ahead of Trump’s 100th day in office.

It will be “the biggest tax cut and largest tax reform in history of this country,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said earlier Wednesday describing the proposal to The Hill.

House Speaker Paul Ryan put a positive spin on things during his own news conference Wednesday, but things are far from great behind the scenes. The Trump administration has ruffled GOP feathers on Capitol Hill, by getting in the way of legislators efforts to fix the tax system.

“It’s not tax reform,” said one senior GOP aide. “Not even close.”

While GOP lawmakers and aides directly involved in the process acknowledge both publicly and privately they are happy the White House is kicking into gear, none of the key players were given a heads-up before Trump announced he would be releasing his principles last week, according to multiple House and Senate GOP aides.

“We get that they want make a big show of leading the way on this, but that’s not how this is supposed to work,” one aide told CNN, adding that discussions between House and Senate tax writers and their administrating counterparts had been ongoing, if still far from any concrete agreement or pathway forward.

On top of that, the topline principles Trump is releasing leave out the important signs of actual reform, not the least of which include: how to pay for it, what’s the pathway through the House and Senate, where the key players off the Hill that have enormous lobbying clout stand on things, and more.

For some aides and lawmakers involved in the process, Trump’s approach is being taken as a direct affront to Ryan and Ways and Means Chair Kevin Brady, who spent more than a year on their tax proposal with the repeatedly stated goal of “once in a generation reform.”

“It’s really easy to talk about big cuts,” a senior GOP aide told CNN. “We’re about solutions. They aren’t to that point yet, either on the policy or on the personnel level, and it’s both obvious and disruptive to the process.”