JANESVILLE — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that Republicans will have an easier time reducing corporate taxes and simplifying income tax brackets for individuals than they did in their failed effort to overhaul health care.
But Ryan acknowledged Republicans could feel conservative voters’ frustration or lack of enthusiasm in midterm elections next year if their legislative agenda stays stalled despite controlling Congress and the White House.
“We had different opinions on how to advance health care reform,” the Janesville Republican told the Wisconsin State Journal in an interview Thursday. “On tax reform, we’re largely in agreement.”
Ryan joined U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for an event with Blain’s Farm and Fleet store managers in Janesville on Thursday.
He said he plans to introduce a tax overhaul bill in September with the goal of passing it through the House by the end of the year.
The former chairman of the House Budget and Ways and Means committees is among a small group of Republicans from the House, Senate and White House who have been quietly crafting changes to the U.S. tax code.
Ryan’s priorities will be to lower tax rates businesses pay, saying they are higher than rates in other industrialized countries, while reducing the number of individual federal income tax brackets from seven to three, raising the standard deduction and making tax forms simpler.
House Republicans will pursue the tax changes while they also work to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, Ryan said.
After hearing frustration from some Republican voters during an event Wednesday in Mukwonago, Ryan said he hopes to notch several legislative accomplishments that have so far eluded conservatives — including the changes to health care and tax policies — prior to the 2018 midterms.
“If we don’t do our job we will depress turnout,” Ryan said. “I am frustrated as well.”
He attributed the lack of action to the Senate, where he said the slim Republican majority gives Democrats more opportunities to stop legislation.
And Ryan said the flurry of news and controversies coming out of President Donald Trump’s White House have overshadowed what he described as a productive session for House Republicans.
“We’re pretty frustrated with the slow pace of things (in the Senate), but in the House, we’ve actually done most of our agenda except for welfare reform and tax reform,” Ryan said. “There’s just been a lot of distractions out there, whether it’s Russia, or tweeting, or whatever.”
One day after Trump reluctantly signed off on new sanctions on Russia that were passed with overwhelming majorities, the president made news Thursday when he tweeted that American relations with the country were at an “all-time & very dangerous low,” for which he blamed Congress.
Asked whether he agreed with Trump’s assessment, Ryan said, “We think Russia deserved the sanctions that we passed.
“Russia can improve our relationship if they stop meddling in our elections.”
Still, while some Republicans have expressed a growing discontent with Trump and polls show the new president’s approval ratings at historic lows, Ryan said he did not believe the party would be accomplishing more if someone else were in the White House.
“The problem isn’t having President Trump sign bills into law and it isn’t getting bills out of the House — the problem is getting these bills through the Senate,” Ryan said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.