Politics

Trump Wants Democratic Support for Tax Bill but Slams Party

President addresses audience of long-haul truckers in Pennsylvania

President Donald Trump waves to journalists as he leaves the White House Wednesday to pitch the White House-GOP tax overhaul bill to long-haul truckers in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday again made clear he wants some Democratic support for an emerging White House-GOP tax overhaul bill. But he then accused Democrats of supporting massive tax hikes.

Speaking to an audience of long-haul truckers Wednesday evening in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Trump pledged to convince Republican lawmakers and “maybe some of those Democrats” to vote for the plan.

Trump delivered a passionate sales pitch for the plan. He told the audience of about 1,000 people that once he signs a bill into law, “you’re going to have so much money.”

What he and congressional Republicans are proposing would give the average American household $4,000 annually in tax relief, Trump said.

While he has tried to court and pressure some vulnerable Senate Democrats into supporting the emerging White House-GOP tax overhaul plan, on Wednesday Trump criticized Democrats for ignoring the “zero” tax bracket.

“They’re not telling you the truth. They pretend there’s no zero rate,” he said. “Which truly is deceptive.”

Trump told a handful of GOP lawmakers in attendance who also traveled with him to their home state that they “better” get the tax bill to his desk.

The president, a wealthy real estate tycoon and businessman, shared this anecdote with the friendly audience: He said “many” of his “rich friends” have told him they do not want a tax cut. One, he claimed, was New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

“Donald, you’re doing this tax plan. We don’t want anything,” he said, paraphrasing his wealthy pals. “Give it to the middle class. Give it to people who need it.”

The president took the short Air Force One flight to Pennsylvania to pitch a nine-page GOP tax overhaul outline that’s being used by lawmakers in  the House and Senate as they try to write separate bills featuring tax cuts and code changes.

Lacking details

That blueprint document, however, is scant on details. The president did not offer any new ones on a rainy night in the central Pennsylvania town.

The GOP framework proposes individual and corporate rate cuts, doubling the standard deduction for single and joint filers, eliminating most itemized deductions, expanding the child tax credit, repealing the so-called estate tax, and making it less painful for companies to return profits to the United States.

The president spent time during the Harrisburg event touting each proposal. Collectively, he said, they would increase wages, create jobs in the United States, give families and small business tax relief, and provide a jolt to the still-recovering American economy.

“For every American across this land, we will bring back our great American dreams,” Trump said of the tax plan and the rest of his domestic agenda.

The speech was highly reflective of the “America first” campaign platform that delivered him a decisive win over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general election, and which guide many of his governing decisions. One example was a line in which he sold the GOP tax package and his agenda as designed to “take care of our American workers.”

“It’s about time,” he declared over the audience’s cheers.

White House officials want the House to finish work on its tax bill in October, the Senate to finish in November, and the president to sign a bill by the end of the year, he said. That aligns the White House’s preferred timeline with that of congressional GOP leaders.

As the congressional tax-writing panels and White House officials continue their work, Trump’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, recently said the “Big Six” tax-writers — six Republican leaders who have been negotiating the GOP tax plan — have been working well together.

Trump, as he did Wednesday with Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, has been jetting to states with vulnerable incumbent Democratic senators as he is eager to pass a bill with bipartisan support. He didn’t mention Casey during his speech, however.

Democratic lawmakers from both chambers are not ruling out supporting what eventually will hit the House and Senate floors after bills emerge from the tax-writing panels.

The president’s team sees plenty in the Republican framework for Democrats to support, including a proposed expansion of the child tax credit, a White House official said before Trump departed for the Hoosier State.

“I’d think anyone who wants to empower the middle class and give Americans the tools to rise up the economic ladder, Republican or Democrat, should be particularly excited,” according to one White House official. The Trump administration contends it is proposing a major simplification of the federal tax code that would “benefit those who don’t have an army of tax attorneys,” as the White House official put it.

Looking for support

The White House also wants to entice Democrats with the blueprint’s proposed slashing of the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, which would theoretically make American firms more competitive and incentivize them to bring trillions of dollars in profits back to the U.S. from other countries.

Trump wanted to propose a cut all the way to 15 percent, but acknowledged in recent weeks he settled for 20 percent to give the emerging plan a better chance to pass — and, as he put it Sept. 27, “because of the complexity of the numbers.”

Yet, the “Big Six” roster — House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Cohn — does not include any congressional Democrats.

Senior Democratic leaders have slammed the emerging White House-congressional GOP tax plan as a rate cut for the richest Americans’ at the expense of low- and middle-class taxpayers.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer has said the Trump-GOP plan “socks it to the middle class” with bait-and-switch provisions while also raising rates on the poorest Americans.

“Republicans are again raising taxes on working-class Americans” so they can provide the richest ones a “massive cut,” the New York Democrat said on Sept. 27, hours after the White House and congressional allies rolled out their tax framework.

“There’s no proof, no real belief, no real argument that they’re going to take this new money and put it into creating jobs,” Schumer said that day of large corporations. Along with the notion of giving middle-class families some kind of tax relief, Schumer said Senate Democrats agree with the Republicans on at least one other idea: “We’re open to tax breaks for small businesses.”

Whether or not Trump can secure support from some Senate Democrats will become clear in a month or two. But his push to pressure and court them has some reluctant to dismiss his plan just yet.

Sen. Jon Tester of Montana was asked late last month when asked if he is willing to support the final bill if it meets most of his criteria of middle-class and small-business rate cuts. He replied without hesitation: “You’re damn right.”

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