- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2017

President Trump pressured Democratic lawmakers Wednesday to get behind his tax reform plan, taking the bold step of calling Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp on stage with him as he stumped for the plan in her home state North Dakota.

Ms. Heitkamp, who had already broken with her party by attending the rally, was put on the spot but graciously joined Mr. Trump on stage with several other North Dakota elected officials, all Republicans.

“By working together we are going to restore America’s competitive edge,” the president told the crowd at Andeavor Refinery in Mandan, near Bismarck.

Ms. Heitkamp smiled broadly and waved to the crowd.

One of the Senate Democrats up for election next year in a state Mr. Trump won by a wide margin, Ms. Heitkamp is being targeted by the president to help the legislation across the finish line this year.

Ms. Heitkamp is under intense pressure to work with the president on tax reform. Mr. Trump won her state with 63 percent, and recent polls show support for tax reform tops 70 percent in North Dakota.

Still, her presence on stage demonstrated the potential for bipartisan support of tax reform and potentially the first major legislative win for the president.

“Anybody that is going to vote against tax cuts and tax reform, whether it is in North Dakota or anywhere else, you’ve got to vote them out of office,” he said. “This is a major tax cut — the biggest since Ronald Reagan.”

Ms. Heitkamp didn’t speak at the event, and she hasn’t endorsed the president’s plan. But she said in a statement last week that she was eager to hear his proposals.

“Ask any small-business owner, energy industry worker, farmer or parent in North Dakota about what they think of the current U.S. tax code and they’ll most likely tell you that it’s broken,” she said.

At the refinery Mr. Trump touted the job-creating boost from slashing business taxes, the windfall for middle-class families and the economy blasting off “like a rocket.”

“Tell Congress to stop putting party first and start putting America first. Only then will it happen,” said Mr. Trump.

“If Democrats don’t want to bring back your jobs, cut your taxes, 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.

He added, “You listening, Heidi? Yes, you heard that.”

Mr. Trump has been taking the tax plan on the road to build grass-roots support in states with vulnerable Democratic senators facing re-election next year. His first stop was in Missouri last week, home to Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Ms. McCaskill didn’t attend the event but did release a statement welcoming the president to her state and offering to work with him on taxes.

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

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 plan is supposed to follow four principles that the president laid out: create a simpler system, cut taxes for middle-class families, restore America’s competitive business edge to create more jobs and bring home profits that U.S. companies park overseas to avoid high taxes.

Earlier in the day Mr. Trump also extended an olive branch to Democratic leaders by agreeing to their demands for a short-term debt limit increase and spending bill that will be attached to emergency spending for Hurricane Harvey relief.

The move angered Republican leaders, who were blindsided by the president’s quick concessions. They had been pressing for a long-term deal that would have given more breathing room to focus on passing tax reform and other measures.

Under the deal Congress will face a debt limit and shutdown deadline of Dec. 15.

Despite the appearance of bipartisanship, the president’s acquiescence to Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi didn’t improve the chances for tax reform, said Democratic strategist Jim Manley.

He said Republican plans to push through tax reform under rules that prevent a filibuster, allowing passage with a simple 51-vote majority, would erase any good will fostered by the debt limit deal.

“The path they are going to take … will be so partisan that very few, if any, Democrats will support anything Republicans propose,” said Mr. Manley, a former top aide to Senate Democratic leadership.

“I wouldn’t exactly call this a faith-building exercise with Democrats or Republicans, for that matter,” he added. “No Democrat with half a brain will trust Trump after what he did today to the Republican leadership in the House and Senate.”

Mr. Schumer and most of his Democrats have pledged to oppose any reforms that give tax cuts to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans or is projected to create deficits — two issues that the White House has not yet addressed.

Mr. Trump promised that the details of the tax plan would be released within two weeks.


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