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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks at a news briefing at the White House, where he announced new sanctions against Venezuela, on Aug. 25. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

White House says it’s hopeful for tax bill by year’s end

WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday that he is hopeful Congress will pass a major tax overhaul this year and signaled that the administration would be open to changes sought by Congress to improve the chances for passage.

In an interview with CNBC, Mnuchin also said the administration would “absolutely” consider making the tax cuts effective back to the start of this year if a measure didn’t pass until 2018. The possibility of backdating any tax cuts is a sign that President Donald Trump’s plans might face additional delays. Congress must also approve a budget and increase the government’s borrowing authority.

Trump has yet to sketch out a tax plan with specific changes to rates, income levels or the treatment of business earnings that double as personal income. White House legislative director Marc Short says its principles for the tax overhaul will be released “in a matter of days, not weeks.” The president has been pushing for changes to the tax code to cut corporate and individual rates and simplify the system.

READ MORE: A (quick) guide to the upcoming battle over tax reform

Mnuchin added that Trump still intends to repeal former President Barack Obama’s health care law, but “it’s not the major focus at the moment.”

Mnuchin said he would consider including an infrastructure spending bill as part of the tax overhaul legislation. The administration has planned to pass a tax overhaul with only Republican votes. But Trump has been trying in recent weeks to court Democrats, such as North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

In the wide-ranging interview, Mnuchin also offered praise for Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen but said she is just one of a number of people President Donald Trump is considering to lead the Fed after Yellen’s term expires in February.

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