Trump Meets With Democrats To Build Support For Tax Overhaul Plan

Sep 13, 2017
Originally published on September 13, 2017 2:20 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

President Trump had a simple message for lawmakers this morning. Go, Congress; go. The president tweeted that lawmakers should act quickly to overhaul the tax code. Trump is aggressively courting both Republicans and Democrats for a tax plan that has yet to be finalized. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Congress does occasionally act quickly when it wants to. Last week, for example, lawmakers swiftly approved billions of dollars in hurricane relief. President Trump is now trying to harness that momentum to advance his own agenda. He tweeted this morning that with Irma and Harvey devastation, tax cuts and tax reform is needed more than ever before. This afternoon, the president met to talk about his tax plans with a group of centrist House members. He offered no specifics but says he wants the biggest tax cut in U.S. history.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So we want to have a great, new tax cut and tax reform, simplification and massive cuts. And we want to get our country working again and competing again worldwide. And there'll be nothing that can stop us.

HORSLEY: The guest list for the meeting included five Republican House members and eight Democrats. The president's following up tonight by having dinner with the top two Democrats in Congress, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

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TRUMP: If you look at some of the greatest legislation ever passed, it was done on a bipartisan manner. And so that's what - we're going to give it a shot.

HORSLEY: The administration is also working to patch divisions within the Republican Party that sank the effort to repeal Obamacare. House Speaker Paul Ryan says GOP congressional leaders have been meeting for months with the treasury secretary and director of the National Economic Council to develop a plan they can all agree on.

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PAUL RYAN: The whole point of all of this is the House, the Senate and the White House are starting from the same page in the same outline, and then the tax writers are going to take it from there on the details.

HORSLEY: Ryan says that plan will be made public in about two weeks. In the meantime, the president is already busy promoting the tax overhaul, and the White House says he'll take that message to as many as 13 states in the coming weeks. Last night, Trump hosted a group of senators for dinner, including three Democrats up for re-election next year in states the president carried. West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin told CNN he came away impressed.

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JOE MANCHIN: The president came out immediately and said, listen; this is not a tax cut for the rich. I'm not going to get a tax cut, nor any of the wealthy super 1 percenters will get any tax cuts. So that started out saying that most of this will be geared around the working class, middle class, main street of America.

HORSLEY: Trump repeated that claim this afternoon even though the tax plan he floated during the campaign delivered most of its savings to people at the top of the income ladder while adding trillions to the federal debt. Manchin says he won't sign onto a plan that puts the government deeper in the red.

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MANCHIN: I've got to see a pathway forward to not only have no new debt but start reducing the debt that we've already accumulated.

HORSLEY: In an interview with The Associated Press today, House Speaker Ryan refused to guarantee the GOP tax plan would not add to the deficit. He insists simplifying and lowering taxes is more important.

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RYAN: If we have tax reform that doesn't actually fix our problems, then we'll lose more and more businesses, and the deficit will go even higher.

HORSLEY: The administration has argued it can offset some of the costs of lower taxes by closing loopholes, but a new analysis by the Tax Policy Center shows how difficult that is. Closing every loophole on the corporate tax side, for example, would offset the cost of cutting the corporate rate to 26 percent. That's still well above the 15 percent rate Trump has set as a target. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.