Congress likely will pass health insurance reform this year, but it’s less certain whether lawmakers will be able to tackle tax reform before switching their focus to re-election in 2018, “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace said at the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
Health reform is the most pressing concern currently, and the consequences of not passing a bill would be so significant for Republicans, Wallace said, that lawmakers are likely to hammer out a compromise between the House and Senate later this year. No Republicans “want to go in [during re-election] and say they got nothing done,” Wallace said. “I’ve got to think they’ll get some of that through.”
Tax reform is another matter. It affects the entire economy and every industry that has a preferred tax benefit will be lobbying hard, he said. What’s more, lawmakers “only have a little over a year to get their agenda through Congress before campaign season starts.”
NAR is advocating for a tax-reform bill that preserves incentives for homeownership and commercial sales. A study commissioned by NAR, which was released at the conference, estimates that 70 percent of middle-income homeowners would pay more taxes under the reform concepts House Republicans and the Trump administration are exploring.
Wallace said President Trump inherited a difficult political climate in Washington to get his pro-business agenda through Congress, despite the Republican majority in both chambers.
But Trump has also contributed to the challenges, Wallace said, by alienating Democrats with his rhetoric and raising ethical and legal concerns with his response to the Russia investigations, his firing of FBI Director James Comey, and his sharing of sensitive intelligence with the Russians. These matters, Wallace said, are a “case study in how easy it is to lose focus on the economy.”
In response to a question from an audience member, Wallace said he will make it a point to use lessons of the 1986 tax reform effort to shape his news coverage of the current one. During the 1986 push, the savings & loan industry collapsed, and the federal government ended up owning millions of properties. “Using history as a guide” to the “unintended consequences” of policies is something that would add value to his reporting, Wallace said.