- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 18, 2017

President Trump stepped up his efforts to sell Democrats on his tax-reform plan Wednesday, inviting vulnerable incumbent lawmakers to a White House meeting where he predicted “tremendous support” for the proposal.

“The timing is right,” Mr. Trump told 18 members of the Senate Finance Committee, saying lawmakers in both parties will “like this very much.”

But he said cooperative Democrats, so far, prefer to remain anonymous.

“I promised not to mention the name of the people on the other sides, [but] I think we’re going to have tremendous support,” he said.

Five of the six Democrats at the meeting are running for re-election next year in states that Mr. Trump won in 2016. Six other Democrats from states that Mr. Trump lost were not invited.

As the meeting got underway, Mr. Trump turned to the committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, and said to laughter, “We’re going to have a great discussion today, and I’m sure we’ll have unanimous support. I have no doubt, right? Right, Ron? I think, right?”

One of those Democrats, Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, said after the meeting that she voiced concerns to Mr. Trump about the proposal giving most of the benefits to the wealthy and adding to budget deficits.

“I told President Trump that instead of spending over $1.5 trillion on tax cuts for the wealthy, we should work together to stop tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and give middle-class families a bigger tax cut,” Ms. Stabenow said in a statement. “I support tax reform that simplifies our tax code, puts more money back into the pockets of hardworking families and small business owners and spurs job creation in Michigan.”

Three Republican senators spoke to reporters after the 45-minute meeting at the White House, but they weren’t accompanied by any Democrats.

“It was enormously productive. The president made clear his preference for a bipartisan bill,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, Texas Republican and member of the Senate Finance Committee.

The three senators said there was broad bipartisan agreement about the need to deliver tax relief to the middle class and to grow the economy. But they could only offer “hope” that Democrats would back the bill in the narrowly divided Senate.

The senators did not answer any questions after making a statement.

The tax reform package, details of which are yet to be finalized, would slash rates for individuals and corporations and simplify the tax code to just one page for most filers.

Mr. Cornyn was joined by fellow Republican senators John Thune of South Dakota and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania.

“Many of our Democratic colleagues appear willing to work with us,” said Mr. Toomey. “I share the hope that my colleagues have mentioned that we can do this in a bipartisan way so it will be durable and very broadly supported.”

Congressional Republican leaders, meanwhile, moved forward with a budget resolution that wouldn’t require Democratic support if all GOP lawmakers vote for it. The Senate is expected to vote Thursday on a budget resolution that would allow tax legislation to add deficits totaling up to $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

Republicans also are aiming to approve the tax-cut plan by the end of this year.

The tax-relief plan would cut business taxes and lower rates for most individual taxpayers, giving the average family about $4,000 more per year, according to the White House.

“It’s really tax cuts and reform, but I focus on tax cuts because it’s such an important weapon to get our country really moving,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re going to restore America’s competitive edge, rebuild America’s middle class — very much aimed at the middle class — and renew the promise of the American dream.”

Some observers are saying Republican incumbents need to approve the tax-cut plan or face voters’ wrath in 2018.

“With nothing to run on following their health care reform failures, Republicans trail Democrats by 9 percentage points in current 2018 election polling,” said Bernie Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot and an early Trump supporter, writing in The Hill newspaper. “They [Republicans] must unite around tax cuts for the good of the country and their constituents. Otherwise, voters will unite against them next November.”

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