Think Obamacare repeal was hard? Wait for tax reform

Congressional Republicans need to think again if they’re hoping tax reform will offer them an easy victory after their bungled Obamacare repeal effort.

Rewriting the tax code will be just as difficult as health care — maybe even more so. While every Republican loves a tax cut, the GOP is divided over how -— or even whether — to pay for them. The fault lines are as much about lawmakers’ parochial concerns as they are about party identity, further complicating the task of cobbling together a majority.

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That’s not to mention the procedural hurdles that could stall the tax debate, or the crowded congressional calendar that could push reform to the back burner. And with the 2018 election season kicking off in just four months, time is not on the Republicans’ side.

Here are five reasons why tax reform could end up a bigger quagmire than Obamacare repeal:

The budget wars

Congressional rules require Republicans to pass a fiscal 2018 budget before tackling partisan tax reform.

But House Republicans have been trying — and failing — to pass a budget for about two months, as conservative- and centrist-Republican demands pull Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his team in opposite directions. Moderates have balked at House Budget Chairwoman Diane Black’s proposed $200 billion of cuts to welfare programs included in the budget. But conservatives say those cuts aren’t deep enough and have threatened to withhold their votes unless they get their way on key tax reform provisions.

Even if House leaders manage to muscle a budget through the House, the reality is that the Senate GOP’s fiscal blueprint will probably look nothing like the House version. So both sides will have to spend precious time resolving their differences in a conference committee — then pass a GOP budget agreement through both chambers again.

Should the debate drag through the fall, White House and senior Republicans…

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