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Andrew Harnik / AP

Freedom Caucus members say it's way harder than it should be to get a meeting with the two Trump officials steering tax reform: Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Sources with direct knowledge tell me that in front of a meeting of the Freedom Caucus in mid-July, the group's leader Mark Meadows asked White House legislative affairs representative Paul Teller to arrange a meeting with Cohn and Mnuchin, so they could share some of the details of the closely-held tax reform discussions.

  • The White House told the Freedom Caucus that scheduling issues were preventing the meeting from happening, but sources familiar with the discussions say Cohn and Mnuchin agreed with Republican leaders that it didn't make sense to share too much information at this stage in the process.
  • White House spokeswoman Natalie Strom didn't dispute the details of the Freedom Caucus request, but insisted it was purely a scheduling issue and that Cohn and Mnuchin were of course willing to meet with the Freedom Caucus.
  • Freedom Caucus spokeswoman Alyssa Farah points out that Secretary Mnuchin met with members of the Freedom Caucus in late June, for more than an hour, to discuss tax reform. (That was early on in the discussions, however, and no real substance was shared.)
  • Strom confirmed that the White House's legislative affairs director Marc Short is trying to schedule a meeting with the Freedom Caucus for the first week back in September.

Why this matters: These tensions could easily blow out into bigger problems for the White House and Republican leadership, as many conservatives feel cut out of the process.

  • Meadows asked for this meeting because some conservative members are frustrated they have no visibility into what the Big Six have been doing. (The "Big Six" is the group of top lawmakers and officials — Paul Ryan, Kevin Brady, Mitch McConnell, Orrin Hatch, Mnuchin, and Cohn — that's working through the details of GOP tax reform, behind closed doors.)
  • A prominent House Republican member told me, "we conservatives have renamed them the Secret Six."

Go deeper

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress sprints to meet crush of deadlines

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congressional leaders have been pushing off vital action for months — and a lot of it will catch up with them in December, which begins Wednesday.

Driving the news: Funding for the federal government is set to expire at midnight on Friday. There are also consequential deadlines related to the debt limit, President Biden's agenda and annual actions like voting on the National Defense Authorization Act.

3 hours ago - World

U.S. fears Iran won’t scale back to 2015 nuclear deal

Officials gather in Vienna on Sept. 29 for the first day of renewed nuclear talks with Iran. Photo: EU Vienna Delegation/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

U.S. officials have extremely low expectations as world powers resume negotiations with Iran to curb its nuclear program, believing the Iranians aren't yet ready to negotiate seriously, Axios is told.

Driving the news: Senior officials in the U.S. intelligence community have assessed the new Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, thinks of his predecessor, Hassan Rouhani, as a weak accommodationist who negotiated a bad deal with the U.S. and other world powers in 2015.