Donald Trump is sticking to his calls for big tax cuts while giving himself wide flexibility to negotiate with Congress.
In an interview Monday, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said that if he wins the White House he will seek to persuade congressional Democrats to back lower taxes on high-income households—an idea they nearly unanimously oppose—by trading on completely unrelated and unspecified policy issues.
“There will be a give and take. They’re going to want other things having nothing to do with this,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s one very big, very complex proposal, into a negotiation.”
He also said he might change the plan he unveiled last year, which proposed lowering tax rates, pushing millions of people off the income tax rolls and reducing federal revenue by nearly $ 10 trillion over the next decade.
It is “always possible to change,” Mr. Trump said. “I always believe in flexibility and remaining flexible.”
Mr. Trump spoke after a series of weekend television appearances in which he suggested that taxes on high-income households would go up, then insisted that they would rise only in comparison with his own tax-cutting proposal.
His comments left Republican tax experts bewildered as they try to decipher what the GOP’s standard-bearer believes on an issue that has long been central to the party’s message.
“He hasn’t made an effort to put people around him who can give him really solid advice about what to do, so this is what you end up with,” said Lanhee Chen, who was a top economic policy adviser to Mitt Romney in 2012. “You end up with this meandering thing. He is able to kind of brush it off in a way that makes it seem like he’s a savvy negotiator.”
Asked for his fundamentals on taxes, Mr. Trump said, “My core beliefs are I want a major tax cut. And I’m only being honest with people. You can’t just say this is what my plan will be. You have to negotiate this with many other people, and those many other people are congressmen and senators, etc., and everybody knows that you have to do that. But I put in a proposal that’s the biggest tax cut of anybody by far. But I also know there will be give and take.”
Write to Richard Rubin at [email protected]