Cohn: 'We've Got to Get Taxes Done This Year'

By Peter Nicholas Features Dow Jones Newswires

Gary Cohn, the president's top economic adviser, said Tuesday he is confident Congress will pass a sweeping tax overhaul, while adding that time is short and lawmakers need to act by year's end.

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Mr. Cohn noted that Congress is set to leave for Thanksgiving recess this week and the legislative agenda looks to be packed in December, leaving a narrow window to pass a measure aimed cutting tax rates and boosting the economy.

Speaking at The Wall Street Journal's CEO Council, Mr. Cohn said, "Look, I think it's really important to get it done. We've got to get taxes done this year. The legislative calendar is going to get very crowded come the first and second week of December."

House Republicans leaders expect the full House will vote on its tax bill this week, while the Senate Finance Committee is expecting to vote on a separate version later this week.

President Donald Trump has said that he hopes to sign a bill by Christmas.

Mr. Cohn defended both the House and Senate tax bills, maintaining that whatever their differences, both will deliver financial relief to middle-class households.

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Mr. Cohn dismissed concerns that some lawmakers might be reluctant to vote for the bills because of provisions that would scale back or eliminate the federal deduction for state and local taxes. He said the message to lawmakers voting on the tax package is that both the House and Senate versions lessen the tax burden for middle class families.

"The only way to grade whether it's successful or not is to literally look at the tables, look at the distributions and say, does this do what we want it do and does it deliver tax relief to hardworking American families? And the answer to both bills is, yes it does," he said.

Next on Mr. Trump's agenda is a plan to improve the nation's infrastructure -- the network of roads, bridges, ports and tunnels, Mr. Cohn said.

He said the administration could begin discussions with lawmakers about an ambitious infrastructure package in the coming weeks.

He said that an infrastructure spending bill would enjoy "pretty broad bipartisan support and can have dramatic impact."

Over the summer, Mr. Cohn was aggrieved by the president's handling of the racial violence in Charlottesville, Va., and made public his concerns.

Asked by moderator Gerard Baker, editor in chief of The Wall Street Journal, if the president's tone and tweets are too divisive, Mr. Cohn said, "He's the president of the United States.

He said he and Mr. Trump are "working really well together."

Does the president carry out his obligations to unify the country, Mr. Cohn was asked.

"Look, the president won the election relatively convincingly and the president is doing a lot of the same things today that he did to get himself elected and the country surely liked it on Nov. 8 [2016]," he said.

Write to Peter Nicholas at peter.nicholas@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 14, 2017 10:32 ET (15:32 GMT)