Last week, Mitt Romney told CNBC’s Larry Kudlow that he is drafting “phase two” of his tax-reform plan. “Phase two is to broaden the base,” Romney said. “That means get rid of deductions and exemptions and loopholes and bring down the rates, the way Bowles-Simpson did.”
“It’s not ready yet,” Romney cautioned. “You don’t want to come out with something and say, ‘here’s a great idea,’ and then become the nominee against Obama and have him bash you over the head because this group of taxpayers is getting charged more. You want to make sure you’ve got your ducks in a row before you bring out a massive tax plan.”
As Romney mulls, Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, has some advice: endorse the House GOP’s tax-reform plan instead of proposing a separate legislative outline.
“The smart move is to say, ‘I’m with Paul Ryan,’” Norquist says. “Then it’s not ‘his plan,’ and [Romney] can simply say, ‘I’ve endorsed the House Republican plan’ when prompted about tax reform.”
“Look, if Romney designs a plan with zero capital-gains tax, well, he’ll be able to talk about how he has his own plan. But if he endorses the generic Republican plan, it’ll be a healthy sign that as president, he’d be ready to sign the House Republican plan into law. It comes back to the fact that any Republican president would have to sign that plan. You can have any plan you want, but if you are a Republican president, that’s what you’ll sign since that’s what they’ve passed.”
“This is the consensus,” Norquist says. “The tax part of the Ryan plan is an outline. It’s a line in the sand, a 25 percent top rate. That’s pretty good, and since that is what you’re going to sign if you’re president, there’s no point in designing a radically different plan. If you take an off-the-shelf Republican plan, it signals to Republicans that you realize you’re coach of the team, not CEO of a company, that you’re not the font of all ideas for the modern Republican party.”
House Republicans “are not looking for any new ideas,” Norquist says. “They had a hard enough time moving the bills they’ve already passed. Romney needs to come in as coach, not president-centric,” in his approach to tax reform.