Senate Dems Press for Bipartisan Tax Talks

By Snell, Kelsey; Paletta, Damian | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), August 2, 2017 | Go to article overview

Senate Dems Press for Bipartisan Tax Talks


Snell, Kelsey, Paletta, Damian, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


WASHINGTON Senate Democrats issued a call Tuesday for bipartisan talks on a sweeping rewrite of the nations tax code amid growing pressure from the White House for Republicans to implement aggressive tax cuts before years end. Democrats unveiled their request in a letter calling on the GOP to work with them to update the tax code without reducing federal revenue or cutting taxes on the wealthy. The entreaty comes as President Trump and his Cabinet demanded that Republicans in Congress deliver steep tax cuts for businesses and individuals, with or without the help of Democrats.

Two of the three Senate Democrats missing from the letter, Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, are also running for reelection next year in states singled out Monday by the White House. The other, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, faces difficult re-election prospects of his own.

The letter follows a call from White House legislative director Mark Short for conservative activists to pressure vulnerable Democrats to support the tax overhaul plan or face political peril in the 2018 midterm elections.

Were confident right now that we will be able to earn their support with our tax reform agenda, he said, sitting beside Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at an event hosted by Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners, two conservative groups backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch.

Short singled out several states where Democrats are facing tough re-election bids, including Montana, North Dakota, Ohio and Indiana. The White House hopes that Congress will be ready for a House vote in October, followed by votes on a similar Senate bill in November, according to accounts from several White House officials who were granted anonymity to discuss strategy.

But Senate Democrats hope that Republicans will be wary of an aggressive push on taxes flollowing last weeks dramatic failure of the GOP effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. That measure imploded when three GOP senators rejected a scaled-down effort by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, released a letter signed by 45 of the 48 Senate Democrats calling on McConnell and Trump to launch bipartisan talks. The letter identifies three basic demands: any tax legislation should be drafted under the regular bipartisan committee process; the legislation should deliver relief to middle-class families without tax cuts for the rich; and any tax changes should include at least as much revenue as is collected today.

Democrats plan to unify around a series of policy demands that they say will be appealing enough to keep the entire party in line, according to interviews with Democratic aides and senators. Many Democrats believe the badly fractured GOP wont be able to pass a complex tax bill on its own and GOP leaders will be forced to accept Democrats conditions to start bipartisan talks.

Wyden dismissed any concerns about lack of unity among Democrats ahead of the letters release.

I think Democrats generally, and you see in what weve said in the last couple of weeks, are going to be very united about saying the centerpiece has got to be to focus on middle folks, Wyden told reporters Monday, ahead of the letters release. …

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