U.S. House Republicans are unlikely to begin tackling tax reform legislation until the summer, after first moving to revamp the nation’s healthcare system, House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Thursday.
In an interview with Fox News, the Wisconsin Republican said lawmakers had to make good on their pledge to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, before they can turn to rewriting the U.S. tax code.
“It’s just the way the budget works that we won’t be able to get the ability to write our tax reform bill until our spring budget passes, and then we write that through the summer,” Ryan told Fox News.
“We feel the need to rescue (healthcare),” he said. “That’s why we’re going with healthcare first, and that’s the first budget. And then in the spring, when we do our second budget, that’s where tax reform comes.”
Ryan later told reporters at his weekly press conference that he hoped to move on healthcare legislation by the end of March.
His comments came as Trump, who has called on Congress to act swiftly to enact his sweeping agenda, met with the Republican chairman and ranking Democrats on the Senate Finance and Ways and Means committees. The two panels oversee tax writing, among other issues, but the White House meeting appeared to mostly focused on trade.
Any tax reform package would also have to pass the Senate, where it could face resistance over a border adjustment tax provision.
Republicans, who control both houses of Congress as well as the White House, have pledged a range of overhauls after eight years of the Democratic Obama administration, even as tensions have arisen over timetables and priorities.
“Enough ‘all talk, no action.’ We have to deliver,” Trump told Republican lawmakers at their retreat in Philadelphia last month, pushing them to move on tax reform as well as his planned U.S.-Mexico border wall and repealing Obamacare.
Trump has also vowed major spending to overhaul the nation’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure. Democrats have said they could back such a plan but would not support privately funded efforts that could lead to people paying tolls and other costs.
Ryan dismissed the idea of using taxpayer funds on infrastructure, however.
Instead, he told Fox News, House Republicans will weigh how to “leverage more private sector spending” for projects such as pipeline overhauls and reforming the Federal Aviation Administration to revamp the air traffic control system.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Richard Cowan; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Tom Brown)