- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2017

President Trump for the first time will be accompanied by a Democratic senator as he stumps Wednesday for his tax reform plan, diving into what White House officials call a “new stage” in the push for major tax cuts.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, will travel with the president on Air Force One to an event at an oil refinery in her home state, where Mr. Trump will make the case that simplifying the tax code and lowering rates — especially the country’s sky-high business tax rate — will create jobs and put more money in the pockets of workers and middle-class families.

One of the vulnerable Senate Democrats up for re-election next year in a state that Mr. Trump won in by a large margin, Mrs. Heitkamp is under intense pressure from the president to defect to the tax reform cause. Although she is not expected to endorse the president’s plan at the event, her presence signals an opening in what has been solid Democratic resistance to the president’s agenda.

Mr. Trump carried North Dakota with 63 percent of the vote and polls show that tax reform is extremely popular with Mrs. Heitkamp’s constituents.

The president will remind North Dakota voters that a Democratic senator from their state helped pass Ronald Reagan’s tax reform package more than 30 years ago — the last time Americans got a major tax overhaul.

“Both of the Reagan tax cuts passed by a Democratic majority in the House, a Democratic speaker and the vast majority of Democrats in the Senate, including a Democratic senator from the great state of North Dakota,” Mr. Trump said in prepared remarks provided by the White House.

“If Democrats continue their obstruction, if they don’t want to bring back your jobs, raise your pay and help America win, voters should deliver a clear message: Do your job to deliver for America or find a new job,” he said in the remarks.

This major policy push, however, took a backseat to immigration reforms Tuesday when the president revoked the Obama-era amnesty for illegal immigrant children, a program known as DACA, and gave Congress six months to address the issue.

The move added another hot-button debate to an already crowded fall schedule for Congress.

Lawmakers retuned Tuesday facing pressing deadlines to quickly approve emergency funds for Hurricane Harvey relief, increase the $20 trillion debt limit and pass funding for the government before a Sept. 30 shutdown.

Still, White House senior officials said tax reform remains the administration’s top priority and Mr. Trump’s use of his time, namely the trip to North Dakota and plans to tour other states to sell the plan, demonstrate his commitment to getting legislation done this year.

Mr. Trump began the tax-reform tour last month with a stop in Missouri, where he called out Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill by name and urged voters to throw her out of office if she doesn’t get on board for tax reform.

In North Dakota, the president will pitch the tax plan at Andeavor Corporation refinery in Mandan. The company owns 10 refineries in the U.S. and has a total capacity of 1.1 million barrels per day.

“The pipe fitters and plumbers, the nurses and police officers, all the people like you that pour their hearts into every penny earned in both the offices and oil fields of America — you are the ones who carry this nation on your backs and it is time you have the relief you deserve,” he said in the prepared remarks.

Mr. Trump is hitting the road with the tax plan a day after huddling at the White House with the “Big Six” team of administration and congressional leaders who are spearheading the tax reform legislation.

The team includes Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House economic advisor Gay Cohn, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch.

Details of the reforms are still being hammered out with Republican leaders in Congress, but the goals are the same ones on which Mr. Trump campaigned.

He wants to simplify the tax code, reduce rates for businesses and individuals and eliminate most deductions. Several popular deductions, including mortgage interest and charitable donations, would remain in place.

The lack of details has caused frustration on both sides of the aisle in Congress.

“At some point, you have to say what you’re cutting rates to, and what the capital gains” rate will be, said Rep. Mark Meadows, the North Carolina Republican who is chairman of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus. “We’ve got to have some details.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Tuesday the president’s September push for a major tax overhaul was “off to a very bad start” because Democrats were excluded from the White House meeting.

“Just as they did with healthcare, Republicans seem to be excluding Democrats from the legislative process from the very beginning,” the New York Democrat said.

He previously accused the president of using a bait-and-switch scheme to give tax breaks to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans at the expense of programs to help the poor and middle-class families.

However, holding Democrats together in opposition to tax cuts is likely to be more difficult than it was to stand united against the GOP’s unsuccessful attempt to repeal Obamacare. At least, that’s what the White House is counting on.

Mr. Trump said he wants reform that: creates a simple, easy-to-understand system; lowers taxes for middle-class families; restores competitive business rates to create more jobs; and encourages companies to bring home profits that are being parked overseas.

“Tax reform that follows these principles will create millions of new jobs and ensure that more products are stamped with the very beautiful letters and words: Made in the USA. It’s time to lower our taxes, bring back our wealth, and make America the jobs magnet that it can become, and pretty quickly,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the start of the “Big Six” meeting.

“This is more than just tax reform. This is tax cutting,” he said.

Going forward, Mr. Trump is expected to describe the plan as transforming the U.S. tax system from an “offshoring model” to an “American model,” meaning he will remove incentives for companies to ship jobs abroad and stash profits overseas.

At 39.1 percent, the U.S. corporate tax rate is the highest among developed countries. A big part of Mr. Trump’s plan is to bring the rate down to as low as 15 percent, which would be the lowest rate of developed counties.

However, concerns about such a low rate triggering deficits and debt have congressional GOP leaders looking at a rate closer to 25 percent.

“We know this won’t be an easy lift — tax reform never is — but it’s [vital] we achieve it this year,” said Mr. Brady, Texas Republican, after the meeting. “I’m really pleased with how we are on the same page on this effort.”

David Sherfinski contributed to this report.

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