President Donald Trump met once again with a group of CEOs Tuesday at the White House, where the business leaders spoke with five cabinet secretaries about issues ranging from job creation to infrastructure and tax reform.
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“At the top of our agenda is creating great high paying jobs for American workers ... We've created over 600,000 jobs already … and it's catching on,” the president told the press Tuesday, before adding Americans can expect “some pleasant surprises” regarding NAFTA.
As the president pushes for support for two of his major legislative items – repealing and replacing Obamacare and tax reform – he sought backing and input from twenty business leaders belonging to his “Strategy and Policy Forum” while Congress is away for Spring recess.
“We’re going to reduce taxes, we’re going to eliminate wasteful regulations … we’re doing a major streamlining and perhaps elimination [of Dodd-Frank],” Trump said.
Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway told Fox News ahead of the meeting that headway is being made on the president’s promise to slash taxes for both individuals and corporations.
“With all the tax policy talk, the tax relief packages that are underway here … the president will make good on a centerpiece of his campaign promise to deliver middle class tax relief and corporate tax relief so that you’re spurring growth and more jobs,” Conway said during an interview on Fox & Friends.
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Tax reform has become a hot-button issue for the Trump administration after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied reports Monday that the president had scrapped his tax plan, though Spicer was less clear on a timeline. While Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin previously said to expect a tax bill signed by August, Spicer softened the rhetoric a bit.
"It still would be a great opportunity before they leave for August recess, but we're going to make sure we do this right," Spicer said.
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On Tuesday, Conway said getting it done this year was still on the table.
“Yes, we believe that he can [get tax reform passed this year], but remember, we don’t rush things here based on artificial timelines. This is a very big piece of his domestic case of agenda, a very big piece of his campaign promises, and I know that job creators like the corporations you mentioned, and middle class taxpayers across this country both will have relief after the tax plan is passed,” Conway told FOX Business.
The president has also promised a $1 trillion-plus infrastructure package, to be funded through a combination of private and public means and rolled out over a period of ten years. The infrastructure bill would address everything from water and energy to veterans’ hospitals. Full details are expected to be laid out later this year.
On Tuesday, focus groups led by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao met with the CEOs in small groups before everyone assembled for a larger listening session.
Tuesday’s meeting is a follow-up to the February 3 gathering of Trump’s Strategic and Policy Form; participants included many of the same executives, as well as some newcomers. Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone Group CEO (BX) again led the group which included PepsiCo CEO (PEP) Indra Nooyi, IBM (IBM) CEO Ginni Rometty, Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk and Blackrock (BLK) CEO Larry Fink.