Top White House aides to sell Senate Democrats on tax reform

Posted at 12:02 AM, Nov 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-07 00:02:58-05

Two top Trump administration officials will head to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to sell Senate Democrats on President Donald Trump’s tax plan, multiple sources with knowledge of the meeting tell CNN.

The meeting with Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, and Marc Short, Trump’s director of legislative affairs, is a signal that the Trump administration believes they may need Democrats to pass Trump’s top legislative agenda.

Short confirmed the meeting to CNN, adding that the Tuesday gathering is “not the first time” the White House has met with Democrats on tax reform.

Tax reform, Short said, will be the “entire purpose of the meeting.”

The meeting was organized, according to two sources with knowledge of the gathering, by Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia who has shown a willingness to work with the Trump administration on tax reform.

House Republicans, with Trump’s backing, released their tax proposal last week, pledging to cut tax rates for corporations, simplify the tax code and erase some popular tax deductions. Republicans hope the reform, which has become the President’s primary legislative target after the GOP failed to overhaul the health care system, would allow most Americans to file their taxes on a large postcard.

But Republicans in Washington, particularly those in the White House, learned during the failed health care push that relying solely on Republican votes in a tightly divided Senate could be a recipe for failure. After narrowly passing the House, Trump’s plan to repeal President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care law failed in the Senate when three Republican senators broke with their party earlier this year.

Tuesday’s meeting also could be a cover for the White House. As one White House official noted, these meetings ensure that Democrats won’t be able to credibly say “the administration didn’t include them in the process once it comes time to vote for tax cuts.”

There is pressure on moderate Democrats in the Senate, particularly those up for reelection in states Trump win handily in 2016 like Manchin, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, to back Trump’s tax plan. And Tuesday’s meeting could see Trump administration officials ratcheting up that pressure.

But Manchin, after the tax plan was rolled out, said he remained skeptical of the plan.

White House spokesman Raj Shah, asked about the meeting, said the Trump administration “has been clear from the beginning that there is no reason tax cuts for the middle class and pro-growth reform for businesses should be partisan issues.”

Even so, tax reform has become a partisan issue, with many Democrats slamming the plan as nothing more than a tax cut for wealthy Americans and large corporations.

“They give with one hand and take away with the other,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday. “This thing will explode the deficit, the national debt. And one reason is they’re giving a $1.5 trillion cut to corporate America.”