- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Senate Democrats on Tuesday said Republicans need to abandon any plans to cut taxes for the wealthy, and that they should not leverage fast-track budget rules to overhaul the tax code or pass a package that adds to the deficit if the GOP has serious designs on winning Democratic support for tax reform.

“Tax reform cannot be a cover story for delivering tax cuts to the wealthiest. We will not support any tax reform plan that includes tax cuts for the top one percent,” Senate Democrats wrote in a letter to the president and top Republican leaders.

The Democrats also cautioned against using a fast-track budget process called reconciliation to pass the package, calling it “just a tool to jam through partisan short-term tax cuts.”

The process would allow Republicans to bypass a possible filibuster in the Senate, though it also limits what they can do legislatively, as many conservatives have lamented amid the now-stalled efforts to repeal Obamacare.

Finally, the Democrats said they won’t support any effort to pass “deficit-financed tax cuts,” saying that would endanger social safety net programs.

The letter was signed by 45 of 48 members of the Senate Democratic caucus. The three Democrats who did not sign the letter — Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — face tough re-election fights next year in states President Trump won easily.

SEE ALSO: Tax cut plans by White House hoping to expedite timeline

Senate Democrats remained uniformly against any of Republicans’ efforts to repeal Obamacare, and Republican leaders said the other side wasn’t serious about making improvements to the law.

But Marc Short, the White House’s chief legislative liaison, expressed hope this week that they can win some Democratic support for tax reform.

“I think it can be bipartisan,” Mr. Short said, adding that they’ve engaged many Democrats in the conversation. “I think they’re excited for tax reform as well.”

“Obviously, the question will be what does Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer do, because they’re trying to keep their conferences locked in an effort to resist efforts to the Trump administration,” he said at an event hosted by the Koch brothers’ political network.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also said at the event that the exercise is not going to be “about a tax cut for the rich.”

“Although we’re talking about lowering the top rate, we’re offsetting that with elimination of huge deductions,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “So for most people [in] the top rate, they’re not going to get a tax cut.”

The Democrats sent the letter to Mr. Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch.

Mr. Hatch and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady have said they’re open to hearing Democratic ideas on tax reform.

But Mr. McConnell has said he doesn’t expect Democratic involvement, saying the two sides can’t even agree on basic principles and that modern Democrats are preoccupied with wealth transfer.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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