President Donald Trump warned Congress not to miss a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" to boost the economy with a massive overhaul of the U.S. tax code as he kicked off his effort to sell the American public on his tax plan Wednesday at a manufacturing plant in Springfield, Missouri.
The president's speech was light on details, offering little insight into what his administration wants out of a final tax package. He promised that the changes would cut loopholes that benefit special interests and reshape the tax system into one that is "simple, fair and easy to understand."
He stressed that broad swaths of American society would benefit from corporate tax cuts that would make U.S. companies more competitive.
"Ideally, and I say this to our secretary of the treasury, we would like to bring our business tax rate down to 15%," Trump said.
For the president, Wednesday was a crucial opportunity to reset his administration's legislative agenda following a series of defeats. Trump has yet to sign a signature law of his own, and his attempt to repeal much of Obamacare, his predecessor's signature accomplishment, ended in July with a spectacular defeat in the Senate.
The White House has said that an overhaul of the tax code is essential for creating the kind of economic growth the president has promised his supporters, and the speech in Missouri represents the first step in what allies and opponents alike describe as an exceedingly ambitious legislative effort.
'Why' Not 'How'
White House officials said before he spoke that Trump's speech would focus on "why" tax laws need to be changed, not "how." Bringing tax relief to the middle class and "ending the rigged economy" will be a top priority of the administration, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
Trump's Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, and National Economic Council director, Gary Cohn, have been meeting as part of a group known colloquially as the Big Six in tax talks since the spring, but have yet to propose much in the way of specifics. Other participants are the Republican leaders of the House and Senate, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, respectively, and the Republican chairmen of the congressional tax-writing committees, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and Representative Kevin Brady of Texas.
Trump plans to meet with the Group of Six at the White House on Tuesday and with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders on Wednesday, an administration official said.
One senior White House official said there would be ample time to discuss the specific points of the tax plan later, but that it was equally important to rally Americans behind the notion that changes would benefit the middle class. The choice of Springfield, considered the birthplace of Route 66, was intended to underscore that a tax overhaul should benefit the Main Street America that thrived during the iconic highway's heyday, a second White House official said.