The Week Ahead: In Washington (4/17)

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch didn’t have much time to get up to speed on his new job.

Only a week after being sworn in, Gorsuch will take the bench for the first time today, filling the space next to Justice Sonia Sotomayor and hearing arguments in three cases, with another four scheduled to follow later in the week. They include a clash tomorrow over the power of the Securities and Exchange Commission to recoup illegal profits and arguments Wednesday in a closely watched church-state dispute.

The flurry of arguments will offer Gorsuch a fast introduction to his new responsibilities and give the public its first glimpse at how he will conduct himself on the court. But preparing for arguments shouldn’t be too difficult for Gorsuch, given his decade on a federal appeals court in Denver, says Alexander “Sasha” Volokh, a professor at Emory University School of Law who served as a law clerk for Sandra Day O’Connor and for Samuel Alito during his first term.

More daunting, perhaps, will be the Supreme Court’s unique rhythms and rituals, including the private conferences the justices hold to discuss cases each week when they are in session. The other eight justices held one last Thursday and were scheduled to consider more than 200 requests for a hearing.

Taxes

Since plans to overhaul Obamacare stalled last month, attention has turned to plans to rewrite the U.S. tax code. A key component of those discussions is a so-called “border-adjusted tax.

But while you might want to brace yourself for political arguments about the “reciprocal tax,” the “matching tax” or the “mirror tax,” you won’t be hearing much about the border tax, if Trump has anything to say about it.

Trump made clear last week that he’s not fond of that name — nor the controversy that has sprung up around the BAT, a key feature of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s tax plan. Retailers, automakers and oil refiners that rely on imported materials have all complained that Ryan’s proposal to tax U.S. companies’ domestic sales and imports while exempting their exports would mean higher prices for consumer goods.

Economists and tax experts who parsed Trump’s remarks last week say the president appeared to be calling for import tariffs — that is, taxes levied on specific goods or countries at varying rates. In describing his vision, Trump called for taxing imports from other countries at the same rates those countries impose on U.S. products. “You say, ‘OK, whatever you charge, we’re charging,”’ Trump said. Left unsaid was how or whether Trump’s plan would tax U.S. companies’ exports.

 

John Zang contributed to this post. 

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