The pro­posed

Pres­i­dent prom­ises higher wages, but de­tails re­main un­re­solved

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAMIAN PALETTA AND JOHN WAG­NER damian.paletta@wash­post.com john.wag­ner@wash­post.com Mike DeBo­nis, Paul Kane and Kelsey Snell contributed to this re­port.

GOP tax plan’s push to­ward sim­pli­fi­ca­tion could have un­in­tended con­se­quences po­ten­tially hurt­ing char­i­ties.

har­ris­burg, pa. — Pres­i­dent Trump on Wednesday took his case for mas­sive tax cuts di­rectly to the pub­lic, even as Se­nate Repub­li­cans strug­gled to unite be­hind the pro­posal ahead of a key Se­nate vote that could de­rail his en­tire ap­proach.

Dur­ing a speech to truck­ers and oth­ers here, Trump touted what he as­serts are the tax cuts’ ben­e­fits for the work­ing and mid­dle classes, mak­ing grand-but-dis­puted claims about the ad­di­tional dol­lars that work­ers would see if tax rates were cut for cor­po­ra­tions.

“You’re going to make more money, you’re going to do bet­ter than ever be­fore, and we truly ad­mire you,” Trump told the truck­ers as­sem­bled be­fore him. “You are our he­roes.”

Trump’s speech came just one week be­fore Se­nate Repub­li­cans must de­cide whether to pave the way for his tax plan. They are plan­ning to vote on a bud­get that would al­low the tax cuts to raise the deficit by as much as $1.5 tril­lion over 10 years. At least one Repub­li­can, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), is ex­pected to op­pose the bud­get res­o­lu­tion, as he has tra­di­tion­ally voted against any bud­get that doesn’t elim­i­nate the deficit.

Repub­li­cans con­trol only 52 of the Se­nate’s 100 seats, and they need at least 50 votes to ad­vance the bud­get, as Vice Pres­i­dent Pence would vote to break any tie. And if the House and Se­nate don’t pass match­ing bud­get res­o­lu­tions, then the Se­nate can­not ap­prove tax cuts with a sim­ple ma­jor­ity.

That would re­quire them to seek help from Democrats, who so far have mostly op­posed the con­struct of the GOP tax plan on the grounds that it would largely ben­e­fit the wealthy while po­ten­tially rais­ing taxes for some oth­ers.

With Paul’s sup­port con­sid­ered un­likely, Repub­li­cans can af­ford to lose at most one more vote if they hope to move the bud­get for­ward. Sen. John Mc­Cain ( R- Ariz.) op­posed the White House’s ef­fort to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act, and his sup­port for the bud­get is un­clear. Sen. Su­san Collins (R-Maine) has also bucked the White House in the past and is going to an­nounce on Fri­day whether she will run for re­elec­tion to the Se­nate next year or for gover­nor. That de­ci­sion could in­flu­ence how she ap­proaches leg­is­la­tion going for­ward.

Mean­while, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) has been ill and hasn’t cast a vote since mid-Septem­ber. Repub­li­cans hope he will be back by next week, but that is un­cer­tain. And Trump’s pub­lic and messy name-call­ing ex­changes with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) in re­cent days have also raised con­cerns within the GOP about whether his sup­port for the bud­get will wa­ver.

The bud­get res­o­lu­tion would es­sen­tially al­low the tax-cut plan to add $1.5 tril­lion to the debt over 10 years, and Corker has said he wants as­sur­ances that it would ac­tu­ally re­duce the deficit, not in­crease it. If Corker de­cides to buck GOP lead­ers on the Se­nate bud­get res­o­lu­tion vote, it could im­peril the en­tire tax plan.

“It’s not some­thing they are tak­ing for granted,” said Dou­glas Holtz-Eakin, a con­ser­va­tive econ­o­mist who is pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Ac­tion Fo­rum, re­fer­ring to Se­nate Repub­li­can lead­ers’ as­sess­ment of the up­com­ing bud­get vote. “They are wor­ried.”

Un­til re­cently, Se­nate Repub­li­cans were tout­ing progress on the bud­get deal as a sign of their party’s abil­ity to unify, after party deficit hawks found a com­pro­mise with those push­ing for the large, sup­ply-side tax cuts to move the bill through com­mit­tee. But the bud­get’s prospects in the broader Se­nate again have be­come clouded.

The White House and Repub­li­can law­mak­ers are un­der a tremen­dous amount of pres­sure to pass the tax-cut plan, hav­ing come up short on other pri­or­i­ties ear­lier in the year. The House al­ready has passed a bud­get res­o­lu­tion that is very dif­fer­ent from the one Se­nate law­mak­ers will con­sider next week, but lead­ers have ex­pressed con­fi­dence that they can work out their dif­fer­ences.

For Con­gress, Trump also of­fered a blunt mes­sage about his plan: “All I can say is, you bet­ter get it passed.” “They will. I know,” he added. Trump spoke Wednesday in front of an open air­port hangar door, with a semi-truck vis­i­ble stage right and an­other be­hind him on the tar­mac. The truck be­hind him was em­bla­zoned with a cus­tom logo, “Truck­ers for Tax Re­form,” inside a large red cir­cle next to the words “win again” and “lower taxes, big­ger pay­checks, more jobs.”

Cor­ralling Se­nate Repub­li­cans for the bud­get vote is just one part of the process that the White House is try­ing to pin down. Trump is also try­ing to con­vince sup­port­ers of the plan’s ben­e­fits even though many de­tails re­main un­re­solved. He has said that a mas­sive tax-cut pack­age will speed up eco­nomic growth and lead to more in­vest­ment in the United States, rais­ing wages, with work­ers see­ing an ad­di­tional $4,000 in pay over eight years.

Trump based this as­ser­tion on rough find­ings from his Coun­cil of Eco­nomic Ad­vis­ers chair­man, Kevin Has­sett, who has a con­trar­ian view from other econ­o­mists and says that cor­po­rate tax cuts pri­mar­ily help work­ers, not companies.

“You’re going to make more money, you’re going to do bet­ter than ever be­fore, and we truly ad­mire you. You are our he­roes.” Pres­i­dent Trump, ad­dress­ing a crowd of truck­ers in Penn­syl­va­nia

Democrats are skep­ti­cal of Has­sett’s claim, ar­gu­ing that the plan, as cur­rently de­signed, would add to the debt and pri­mar­ily help the wealthy. Some party mem­bers on Wednesday asked how Trump could claim the tax plan would raise wages by $4,000 over eight years when specifics of how the plan would work haven’t been re­leased.

“I heard that num­ber, and I have not seen any ev­i­dence that even comes re­motely close to that sug­ges­tion,” said Rep. Richard E. Neal (Mass.), the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee.

In a nod to the sway some Democrats might ul­ti­mately have on the tax plan’s fate, Trump has been pitch­ing it in states that he won last year and where vul­ner­a­ble Demo­cratic se­na­tors are up for re­elec­tion next year.

Trump was joined at his events in North Dakota and In­di­ana by Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Don­nelly (D-Ind.) and made clear that he wants their sup­port for his tax cuts. At the event in Indianapolis, the pres­i­dent mo­tioned to Don­nelly and told a sup­port­ive crowd that “we’ll cam­paign against him like you wouldn’t be­lieve” if he isn’t on board.

Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (Pa.), a mem­ber of the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee, is one of 10 Democrats in the cham­ber who are up for re­elec­tion next year in states that Trump won. Casey did not at­tend Wednesday’s event in Har­ris­burg.

His tax mes­sage is also be­ing re­in­forced on the ground by op­er­a­tions set up by the Repub­li­can National Com­mit­tee in 19 states, in­clud­ing Penn­syl­va­nia. The RNC, buoyed by ro­bust fundrais­ing this year from small donors, has tar­geted state party lead­ers it be­lieves will be key to the GOP’s fate in next year’s midterms as well as Trump’s re­elec­tion bid.

Be­yond pre­par­ing for elec­tions, the field op­er­a­tions set up by the party are work­ing to pro­mote Trump’s tax ini­tia­tives with cam­paign-style tac­tics, in­clud­ing door knock­ing, phone banks and house meet­ings, RNC staff say.

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