Dems Are Looking To Work With GOP On Tax Reform
Democrats in both the U.S. House and Senate are reaching across the aisle to work with President Donald Trump and Republican leadership to pass a tax reform bill.
Three Democratic senators and at least eight House members are actively engaged in ongoing negotiations with Trump and members of his administration to accomplish the first major legislative achievement of the president’s first term in office.
Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana dined with president at the White House on Sept. 12 to discuss how to reach a bipartisan solution to tax reform that would provide relief for the middle-class and bolster economic growth. Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, along with committee members Sens. John Thune of South Dakota and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, all Republicans, also attended the dinner.
Trump is scheduled to meet with a bipartisan group of House Ways and Means Committee members Tuesday, which notably includes Democratic Reps. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, Lloyd Doggett of Texas, Brian Higgins of New York, Ron Kind of Wisconsin, John Larson of Connecticut, Linda Sanchez of California, Terri Sewell of Alabama and Mike Thompson of California.
“The President and his team have been engaging with members on both sides of the aisle on tax reform from the beginning,” White House Assistant Press Secretary Natalie Strom told The Daily Caller News Foundation. Administration officials have met with the bipartisan group of Ways and Means Committee members before Tuesday’s meeting, as well as the House Blue Dogs, a group of Democrats committed to “pursuing fiscally-responsible policies,” Strom said.
The president is expected to give a speech in Indiana Wednesday, where he will unveil the administration’s plans for tax reform.
While some Democrats are already working with the president, a coalition of roughly 45 Democrats in the Senate, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, could give the administration trouble going forward. This group has promised to reject any bill that cuts taxes on the wealthy.
The caucus of Senate Democrats sent a letter to Trump and Republican leadership in August in which they wrote “tax reform cannot be a cover story for delivering tax cuts to the wealthiest … We will not support any tax plan that includes tax cuts for the top 1 percent.”
The administration is reportedly looking do just that, despite its assertions in previous announcements that any proposal would not include cuts for wealthy. (RELATED: White House Promises Tax Reform In November)
“Most people in the top rate, they’re not going to get a tax cut,” Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin said at an event in downtown Washington in late July. “This is not about a tax cut on the rich.”
The administration and Republican Party leadership is planning to cut the tax rate for pass through businesses from 39.5 percent to 35 percent. This is important because the majority of U.S. businesses are not subject to the corporate tax rate and instead pay taxes on profits that are passed through to the proprietors of the business and taxed at an individual rate.
Other features of the plan will include dropping the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent, which is 5 percent higher than Trump wanted on the campaign trail.
After nearly 9 months in the White House, the Trump administration is looking for a win. The administration and Republicans in Congress, despite having control of both chambers, have failed to deliver a single legislative achievement for their constituents.
The House passed the American Health Care Act in early May, leaving the onus to repeal Obamacare on the shoulders of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and their Republican colleagues in the Senate. The senators put forth three iterations of an Obamacare repeal in late July, only to be met with defeat each time from a united Democratic body and a few members of their own party.
GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana are trying to jam the party’s 11th hour proposal through the Senate, even though it faces, as of Monday evening, a likely rejection from Democrats and a handful of moderate and conservative Republicans.
The president has already made a what came to be seen as a rather contentious deal with Democrats in early September.
Instead of aligning with members of his own party and his administration, Trump agreed with Democratic leadership in the House and Senate to a deal that would raise the debt limit and fund the federal government through mid-December, allowing members of Congress to deal with the federal budget in mid-December. At that point, lawmakers will have to figure out a budget within a 2-week timeframe before Congress recesses for Christmas.
The administration wants to get a tax reform bill through Congress in 2017, which leaves it just over three months to accomplish its goal.
Graham and Cassidy, in addition to some opposition from Democrats, could be a roadblock for accomplishing what seems to be a rather ambitious window.
The pair of senators said Monday evening that would like to see reconciliation instructions for health care, along with tax reform, in the fiscal year 2018 or fiscal year 2019 budgets.
“We’re going to fight till the last day on this one and then we’ll keep fighting. My preference, obviously would be to pass this week, but if not the case, then I agree with Sen. Graham,” Johnson told reporters Monday. “We’re both on the Budget Committee and we’ll insist on having passed a budget that would have reconciliation instructions for both tax reform and health care reform.”
Graham has consistently hammered that Republicans must do something to reform health care to make good on a seven-year campaign promise.
“I’m going to do everything I can to keep the fight going — I promised to repeal and replace,” Graham said Monday. “We’ll see what happens in the next day or two with votes. Well, I’m not stopping, to your point.”
Graham said Monday evening in a debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, that he is willing to put the bill up for a vote even if it fails.
If the senators lop health care in with tax reform, it could work out to push back the administration’s timeline for other key campaign agendas.
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