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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

As Donald Trump will happily tell you, nobody sells a product better than Donald Trump. House Republican leaders are waiting for the President to turn his famous salesmanship skills to the border adjustment tax — a linchpin of Paul Ryan's tax plan that promises to raise more than $1 trillion by raising taxes on imports while exempting exports.

The problem: If President Trump doesn't get behind border adjustability — and we mean use the full force of the bully pulpit to pressure Senate Republicans and wavering House conservatives — this thing is dead on arrival.

We know Steve Bannon likes the idea. He's told associates that border adjustment is an "American nationalist" concept. But the President has equivocated, and seems more animated by punitive tariffs, which would never fly with GOP leadership.

I asked Trump's press team whether the conventional wisdom on the Hill is true, that Trump's top economic adviser Gary Cohn doesn't like border adjustability. The spokeswoman declined to comment on Cohn's views. Her response: "We're looking at all options – including border adjustability – remain on the table."

Key indicators of trouble:

  • We've seen no signs yet that the President is willing to spend a penny of political capital on border adjustability.
  • The majority of the House Freedom Caucus is against the plan. Without their support, Ryan and co can't get border adjustability through the House. These Freedom Caucus members will only wobble if Trump goes after them.
  • As we've laid out before, border adjustment has a Senate problem. The GOP Senators from states home to big box retailers — think Walmart in Arkansas, Home Depot in Georgia and Lowe's in North Carolina — have compelling reasons to oppose border adjustability.

What's next: Even the most fervent House conservatives tell me they can't fault Ways and Means chair Kevin Brady, who has been working to sell border adjustability to his colleagues. But House leaders are also realistic, and they need cash to pay for massive tax cuts. Don't be surprised if you hear that House leaders are dusting off the Camp tax plan. It was the GOP's last attempt at tax reform and contains plenty of other revenue options, including a controversial financial products section.

But you can't avoid making enemies when raising $1 trillion. If it's not the retailers or oil and gas, it might be the banks. Watch the reactions of Cohn and the other Goldman Sachs alums in Trump's orbit if House leaders start looking at the dreaded "Bank Tax."

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Netanyahu and Israel reluctantly adjust to a post-Trump Washington

Netanyahu (R) and Biden in 2010. Photo: Avi Ohayon/GPO via Getty

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his close aides are very nervous about the transition to a new U.S. administration after a four-year honeymoon with Donald Trump. One Israeli official told me it felt like going through detox.

What he's saying: Netanyahu congratulated Biden minutes after he was sworn in, saying in a statement that he looked forward to working together to "continue expanding peace between Israel and the Arab world and to confront common challenges, chief among them the threat posed by Iran."

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. State of play: New coronavirus cases down, but more bad news ahead.
  2. Politics: Biden set to immediately ramp up federal pandemic response with 10 executive actions — Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. World: Biden will order U.S. to rejoin World Health OrganizationBiden to bring U.S. into global COVAX initiative for equitable vaccine access.
  4. Vaccine: Amazon offers to help Biden administration with COVID vaccine efforts.
Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

First glimpse of the Biden market

Photo: Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images

Investors made clear what companies they think will be winners and which will be losers in President Joe Biden's economy on Wednesday, selling out of gun makers, pot purveyors, private prison operators and payday lenders, and buying up gambling, gaming, beer stocks and Big Tech.

What happened: Private prison operator CoreCivic and private prison REIT Geo fell by 7.8% and 4.1%, respectively, while marijuana ETF MJ dropped 2% and payday lenders World Acceptance and EZCorp each fell by more than 1%.