A staff member affixes the Presidential seal to a podium ahead of an event to mark the sixth-month anniversary of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passage in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Trump Promises a New Tax-Cut Vote After the Midterms. That’s News to Congress

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said Congress will vote on a new tax cut for middle-class Americans after the midterm elections, even though Republican lawmakers say they have no such legislation in the works.

“We’re giving a middle-income tax reduction of about 10 percent,” Trump said Monday as he departed the White House for a campaign rally in Houston. “We’ll do the vote after the election.”

Trump Promises a New Tax-Cut Vote After the Midterms. That’s News to Congress

Party leaders were caught off-guard over the weekend after Trump said at a Saturday afternoon campaign rally in Nevada that “we’re looking at a major tax cut for middle-income people.” He said House Speaker Paul Ryan and other House Republicans were developing a plan that would be unveiled shortly before the midterms.

The announcement was tacit recognition that the tax cut Trump and Republicans passed into law last year isn’t proving as popular as they had hoped. The law is widely regarded as having mainly helped corporations and wealthy people. Many election forecasts predict that Democrats are likely to win control of the House of Representatives.

But congressional offices could not confirm that any new tax legislation was in the works. Later on Monday, a White House spokeswoman clarified that Trump wants the tax cut included in a second round of legislation the House passed in September.

“The president and Republicans in Congress support additional tax cuts for hard-working Americans,” the spokeswoman, Lindsay Walters, said in a statement. “As part of Tax Reform 2.0,” she said, “the president would like to see an additional tax cut of 10% for middle-income families.”

Even if policy makers hastily pulled something together at the White House’s insistence, lawmakers are out until after the election. After that, in the lame-duck session, it would be tough to take up a bill if Democrats are poised to take over the House in January. The Senate has already shown reluctance to consider the House legislation, which would make permanent individual income tax cuts set to expire at the end of 2025.

No Democrats supported last year’s tax bill, and they’ve been critical of the prospect of a second round of tax cuts since the idea was first proposed by Republicans. Unless offset by spending reductions, any new tax cut would further add to the deficit, which reached $779 billion, a six-year high, in Trump’s first full year in office.

Trump said the new plan could be announced as soon as Nov. 1, just before the Nov. 6 elections. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday that “we hope to have something soon.”

Trump’s pitch for middle-class tax relief follows a survey commissioned by the Republican National Committee showing that voters overwhelmingly believe the 2017 overhaul helped the wealthy instead of average Americans.

By 61 percent to 30 percent, respondents said the law benefits “large corporations and rich Americans” over “middle-class families,” according to the survey, which was completed on Sept. 2 by the GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies and obtained by Bloomberg News.

Trump wasn’t the first politician to propose a middle-class tax cut last week. Senator Kamala Harris, a California Democrat seen as a possible 2020 presidential candidate, proposed earlier in the week repealing the 2017 tax law and replacing it with a tax credit or direct payment to middle-class and poor individuals and families.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.